Since we live in the age of globalization and information, our lives will be changing faster and faster, and the future will be less predictable. We need predictability. However only one thing is sure, the world will never be the same again.
This means that our ability to innovate will become the single most important and critical skill in the future.
We will have to invent new models and methods for our daily professional and personal lives, over and over again. This will create massive pressure on our abolity to innovate, our environments to innovate and our culture of innovation.
So how good are we on innovation? The World Economic Forum (WEF) has for many years repeated a major study on global innovation and they also publish the findings on annual basis.
I am not surprised to find Scandinavian countries at the top of the list. We have always had a culture of innovation, research and devlopment – that is why no country per capita has more companies on the Forbes500 list than Sweden. This culture of innovation has developed our nation and society from being a poor country to being one of the richest countries in the world today. Our culture allows mistakes and innovation is about having a vision, an idea, testing it over and over again until it works – learning from the failures and mistakes – until that specific idea works, is implemented and at the end of the day changes the world. Some people claim say that you need a thousand bad ideas to find the good one.
However, innovation is more than good ideas. It also about shaping climate of innovation in a country or organization.
All successful organizations has a leadership that embraces innovation, allow everybody in the organization to explore their ideas for the greater good of the organization, supports and motivates people to think on their own, endorses own initiatives (wherever they come from) and salute change. Unfortunately not all our organizations and leaders are like that today, but in the future they have to be to survive.
Innovation has to be the air, what we breath. Mankind would not be where we are today, curing deadly deseases and making space trips – if it wasn’t for innovation.
This is important also for the world of Customs, borders and trade. We need more innovation and in the future we will get it.
One of the things that has fascinated mankind since the beginning of time is communication. It is one of the things that seperates us from other spiecies, the ability to use advanced communication.
There are basically two important things for in relation to communication, the language and how we use it. Today there are so many platforms and arenas for communication that it has become more important how you say things than waht you say. To make your messagevheard in the great global information ocean. It id not simple and it is not easy. However, one thing is still crucial, you need a language to communicate. We need a common language to understand each other.
How to use it? It is an art of its own and I will expand on that another day. Today in this posting I will focus on the importance of langauge.
I am happy to come from a small country, a trading nation that always has treasured the use of different languages.
We have to learn other langauges early since there are only 12-13 million people in the world that speak Swedish.
Almost all Swedish people speaks at least one more language – normally English, and most people speaks two additional languages. In addition there are many people that speak three, four or even more languages.
If you travel Sweden you will have no problem finding somebody that speaks your language. Children with parents having more than one native langauge (maybe a mother from Chile and a father from Croatia) has a legal right to be offered to study also the additional langauges in ordinary public schools. This is in addition to Swedish and the generally offered langauges, today normally English, German, French, Spanish, Portugues, Russian and Mandarin.
In public school today in Sweden our children starts reading a second language at the age of six, a third language at nine and then they can add on more languages during the obligatory twelve years of school studies. We also watch all TV and movies in original language, which is something many European countries don’t.
Having said that, language is getting more and more important in Europe in general.
The EU statistical bureau Eurostat has studied the use of languages in the European Union Memberstates. There is a report about this on the EU Commission website, very interesting reading.
The latest study shows that two-thirds of the population of European Union knows a second language other than the natove one. That is a really good number.
It is an amazing power for a person and for a country of people to be multilingual.
When we work with capacity building the ability to support in the language of the reciever is a key success criteria. I will give you an example.
There was a major change of the World Customs Organization that maybe hasn’t been so much talked about afterwards as it should, but that I personally think is one of the most successful things that we have verbdone – and that was the thenimplementation of the WCO Language Fund.
When I started my work as Director of Capacity Building inbthe WCO in 2006, I found out that there were several geographical areas where the organization was not present and/or active. An analysis showed that it had to do with the language challenge. WCO has two official langauges, English and French. But you can’t deliver capacity building in Latin America, CPLP, Central Asia or MENA in English or French. In fact my discussions with colleagues from these countries showed thst many of the Members didn’t even know about the capacity building services we offered in the WCO, due to the fact that they did not send any participants to our meetings because of the language barrier. So we had to change this and we did.
When I initiated the WCO Langaue Fund it became directly a success. I was also lucky that my home country, the Government of Sweden, agreed with our analysis of the importance of langauge when doing capacity building and Sweden was the first donor to the fund with a contribution of 1 million Euro. So the fund was implemented.
We could then, offer interpretation and translation in a number of new languages (Arabic, Portugese, Russian and Spanish) at WCO meetings. We also initiated specific accreditation workshops for capacity building experts for these lanaguage groups, making it possible to deliver missions and workshops on all necessary langauges. We started to offer a number of our key capacity buidling and development programmes in other languages, like eg. the Leadership Development programme, the Fellowship programme and the e-learning programme.
This initiativ has fundamantally changed the WCO. Member countries send their best experts to meetings, instead of somebody that speaks English. Capacity Building missions are delivered on the recievers own langauge. Not always, but more than before. People in the entire Membership know about the WCO services.
Today we see so much more interest and participation from these regions in the SCO daily activities and thus has WCO Members as well as the international supply chain and global trade, been improved due to the language reform of the WCO. This is something I am very proud of. However, it is not enough. We need more.
The next following decade the need for cooperation, global partnerships, more harmonization and standardization will increase tremendously and grow exponentially. We need to re-vitalize and further develop our work on communication and languages.
Communication is the key and without langauges, no communication.
The power of our langauge.
Sweden played Ireland in the first game of the UEFA EuroCup 2016 playoff groupstage. The game ended 1-1.
Ireland scored 1-0 in the beginning of second half. Sweden then had a recovery and scored 1-1. It was our captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic that did a great move, after a backhrel pass from John Guidetti, and hit the ball hard towards the goal which pressured an Irish defender to score an own goal.
To be fair. This was a poor performance, a bad football game. To be honest, Ireland was the better team. Our first half was the worst I have ever seen the Swedish national team play. I feel sorry for Ireland being ‘robbed’ of 2 points, but I am happy that it was Sweden that was getting the draw.
At least the Swedish and Irish fans were acknowledged as being the best so dar, singing and creating an atmosphere of joy and friendliness. We need more of that these days.
Yesterday we played Italy. An Italian team that easily beat the group favourites Belgium 2-0 in their first game. Sweden did a much better game than against Ireland. We were dominating the ball possesion (60-40), but didn’t manage to create the real open chances to score.
Italy had 2-3 players on Ibrahimovic all through the game, which our other players should have taken advanatge of. Italy is a strong tram and in 89th minute they scored on a counter attack. On extra time we were denied a oenalty that clearly should have been given. It was simply not our day and we had no luck with the referee.
So only one point in two games for my beloved national team so far. Is it over? No, it is never over ‘until the fat lady sings’ as they say.
On Wednesday we play favourites Belgium in Nice. This game will be decisive. The team that wins is though to the knock-out rounds. A difficult game for us. Another loss for Sweden? Maybe, maybe not Football is an amazing sport – nothing is impossible. So I think Sweden will win.