On entrepreneurship

WTO failed – farm entrepreneurs can take a break

As a farmer’s son but educated in economics it is impossible not to comment on last weeks WTO efforts. In today’s ”Dagens Næringsliv” the CEO of Cancer Cure, Phd. Gunnar Myhr, himself a successful entrepreneur, questioned the national farmers association in Norway on why they were so protective and negative to a new WTO-treaty (yes, we had farmer-demonstrations as well!). They claimed it would reduce the number of farmers/farm related jobs in Norway by 40 000, from somewhat 55 000. Even though such a slope may seem dramatic, this number has declined ever since the end of Second World War. Then we had some 220 000 farmers in this country. No one (except the farmers association themselves) really believe that such a dramatic change would be the direct outcome of a WTO-agreement, and if so would it really be bad? No, I do not think so. Here are an aspiring entrepreneur’s not so crazy thoughts on why.

Norway has a need for workforce. We have never had lower unemployment rates than we have now, 2,5 %, and we use foreign workers, especially from Poland to do dirty jobs. Well lubricated by oil, our government now employs near one third of the Norwegian working population, and increasing. A main chunk of these, being within health care. We have a large generation of people born under and immediately after the mentioned war that will soon be old, and we need someone to look after them. Where would be better suited to establish geriatric institutions than in big countryside farm houses where the farmer can no longer live off what the land gives?

The elderly will love being at the countryside, the farmers will have a job, and due to the WTO treaty we would probably have had food from abroad also. All the farmers would have had to do is grab the opportunity and be a little bit entrepreneurial. Unlike in other countries, where, on the countryside, poverty and care for elderly goes hand in hand, we could (and probably would) have government funding to support these new centers. In addition, Norwegian elderly are not poor elderly as in third world rural elderly poor; these are elderly that are fairly well off after having had good jobs for years before they retire, they can even pay for them selves – but wait, Norweigan elderly pay for themselves in Spain instead – where the food is cheap and the sun is on. Do not tell me they will not have a good time if someone offered them a good old Norwegian farm rebuilt as a service centre for the elderly with a golf court nearby in the summer and whiskey (or something) in the winter.

Alternatively, the farmers could come up with local food specialties and sell them to the tourists, local people or to the city markets where people will pay more for Norwegian quality. All they have to do is be entrepreneurial! Those 15 000 farmers that would have been left, will have a lot of land to take care of, around the new golf courts and the new elderly centers. Or, they could even be wilder and start an MIT Fab Lab (yes, we have a farmer that did that!).

Last, how does this appeal in the States? Maybe the negotiators back in the White House should have given entrepreneurship and their own elderly population a thought before telling India and China off? And maybe the U.S. farmer’s association lobbyists should have thought twice before robbing the U.S. farmers from an opportunity to change now when prices are high, and U.S. is still wealthy. They of course also rob the chinese and indian farmers for their much wanted market access. Fortunately, globalization is put on hold for a few more months, and the U.S. farmers can do business as usual. No entrepreneurship needed – yet!

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On outsourcing

Secondbrain, Al Gore and the Pyramide

All, as you may see on top of this page there is a link to my seconbrain.com-page. This is a very nice content aggregation service that have great potential – and best of all, it is hatched and developed in Norway and not in the valley. Great job and keep up the good work.

Yesterday I found a great graduate ceremony speach, Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech 2005. I saw it through ingvilds secondbrain. And today I saw a comment to a video by Al Gore:

1. Outsourcing is “killing” jobs in the US. It would be interesting to see proof of this, and what would have happened if they did not outsource? Would they then be able to compete on a international level ?

I correlate this to Friedmans the world is flat and to my earlier post on that change is good. Would not the worlds net production be better of if expensive workforce in one country, in this case U.S.A., perform more useful operations and let the “others” do what they do best? Tariff barriers are means to slow this development down, but how about the more useful and interesting jobs that these people can do? To answer the question, yes it happens. Companies struggle this every day. Take the furniture industry in Møre, the car industry in Detroit or the textile industry in Italy. Either they face competitions and clings to the ever rotating wheel of improvement, or they die – outcompeted by low cost, high efficiency asian solutions. Either you can sleep (while we are sleeping..) or you can compete.

Obviously there are examples of ghost cities where change were not good. Where innovation did not happen fast enough. For instance the settlement Pyramiden at Spitzbergen (does anyone have a better link in English?). Left behind by the russians in 1998. When mining was longer worthwhile they could innovate something else to do there – tourism, production, research, seed bank or they could do as they did: leave.

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On dreaming

The american dream – in Norway!

Yesterday was a great day. I had a few friends over for some beers. It was supposed to be a pre party and going out afterwards, but people stayed on and on. That is always nice.

So why is this of interest? One of my friends brought his American girlfriend, and late in the night I mentioned my blog and the article about the jante law and tall poppy. We had to explain the tall poppy syndrome to her. She had never heard about it. But when I cited the Viking Law we all recognized it as the Scandinavian version of the American dream.

I find this an interesting point in order to understand the American and the Norwegian entrepreneurship culture. I have been to the Norwegian Entrepreneurship Programme in Boston, US where we learned that one should not be afraid to think big. In the traditional Norwegian farmer community where I grew up you were almost considered criminal if you had a bigger tractor than your neighbor or had more land than your neighbor. Not that my family ever cared. And that might be why I find this so interesting. It is now possible to think big in this small country. However, the problem seems to be that media and the politicians seem to have missed a point – this change is to the good and not to the bad! And they could help us develop.

So what is the problem? Well the problem is that when you think big, you are more likely to fail. An American saying is that “One would rather be a spectacular failure than a dismal success”. When the journalist yesterday wrote about the Viking law, and nicknamed it “Rikeloven” (the rich man’s law) I think he misses that this law is a good thing. It does not apply only to rich people. It applies to everybody, including the drug addicts on the streets of Oslo now selling a magazine instead of begging for money.

When he further mentions a rubber tire and boot factory in Askim, conveniently enough named Viking, that were shut down in 1991 because of fierce international competition, as an example of this being a bad thing I really struggle. It employed some 500 people from 1906 to 1991. Obviously it resembled a cornerstone company in the city. But I happen to see that this city is now prosperous and full of life, nearly 20 years later. It also has a big polish community of guest workers who settled there in late 70s and 80s because of the factory. They contribute to culture, new job creation enriching the community. It has the region’s best indoor swimming arena and prosperous shopping opportunities in the old factory hall. So my challenge to the press – next time a factory shuts down – challenge the people on what they will do now – help then create new jobs! Do not blame the management who actually made it possible to work there in the first place and actually gave people work, experience and meaning for years before things went wrong.

For the record, I fully support the watchdog role of the media when it comes to fair critics. But please, change is natural, it is good and it is what we envision it to be. It is an opportunity, not a problem.

TON

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On dreaming

The Viking law!

Today seem to be a good day to start this blog. The sun is shining, it is summer. But these are not the important things right now.

I have been thinking about this blog for quite some time, and early on decided it should bring management, entrepreneurship and politics together. To the world, but as seen from Norway. I currently know no other bloggers in Norway that blog with a world perspective, but I am sure I will find out pretty soon. Feel free to comment below.

So what’s about the name? Well, the Tiger refers to the tiger sculpture in front of Oslo Central Station. Lately it has been looking at some pretty nasty drug dealing, construction work nearby and Nigerian ho’s attacking humble Norwegian (but still a bit drunk) young men on their way home by night. And the last two weeks 18 tourist couches caught fire between the tiger and our new national monument, the opera. What a beautiful country.

Now, back to the reason why this is a good day to start a blog. The real reason is today’s post in the national newspaper “Dagens Næringsliv” (Norwegian Business times) about the Nordic phenomena the “Jante law“, a poem written in 1933 by the authorAksel Sandemose that has had quite a lot to say for building the social democracy that we have. Its English counterpart, the tall poppy syndromeshould be familiar.

Apparently this ”law” has 75 years anniversary this year, but it has been replaced – actually this was done rather dramatically in a Norwegian TV show in the late 80s where they literally threw this poem in the ocean outside a management course training centre, Solstrand, and told everybody that the we should rather have faith in the Viking law. It goes like this:

  1. See opportunities
  2. Create winners
  3. Be brave!
  4. Give praise
  5. Think positive
  6. Take responsibility
  7. Look forward
  8. Pursue education and research
  9. Oppose jealousy and laziness
  10. Start today!

So here I am.

I just started the first day in my new life.

And look forward to bringing out my perspectives to the world.

So long,

The tiger of Norway

The tiger of Norway

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