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.