So what has changed within the last 12 years in Finland? This is a question I kept hearing from Finns during my FCP alumni week in Finland; the question I also occasionally asked myself while meeting various people and enjoying life in Helsinki or Rovaniemi.
Strangely enough, the last time I visited Finland was 12 years ago in 2004. (Perhaps, because of living close to Finland, a delusive feeling misled me that I have definitely been there at least a few times since 2004.) Then it was the heyday of Nokia. The Finns were a shiny happy Nokia nation, proud of their advanced economy and predictable political climate. Nokia has almost gone now, leaving Finnish economy in a somewhat melancholic mood.
But the Nokia spirit has not evaporated, even though the inspiring economic growth of Finland has evidently stopped. A good example of a lingering Nokia heritage is leading Finnish start-up companies where former Nokia people work. They continue innovating, but arguably their innovative products have not become a part of the Finnish national pride to the same extent as it was with Nokia’s triumph in the 2000s.
The post-Nokia era has also produced a significantly different political constellation in Finland. I got an impression that society’s perception of the political elite is more critical than it was in 2004. Of course, this is partly because of the economic slowdown. Yet the global (geo)political shifts have also nurtured the criticism of ruling parties that has resulted in support to alternative (populist, if you like) ideas, most prominently embraced by the Finns Party (formerly the True Finns Party).
But what has not changed here is the innovation ecosystem and people’s awareness that Finland can accommodate its welfare model to current challenges by investing in smart technologies, smart businesses and smart foreign policy. Post-Nokia Finland shows that it has become more differentiated with respect to how the state should behave towards its people. Nevertheless, the Finnish consensus-building culture, with all its possible shortcomings, is the smartest of all smart Finnish strategies which has the highest potential to secure Finland as a role model for many other countries.