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Posted at 10:20 AM ET, 01/29/2011

The Nordic Experience – In Search of a New Economic Paradigm?

By Jens Martin Skibsted

It may be high time to recalibrate economic fundamentals when, faced with stiff BRIC country competition, hardened capitalists voice pros and cons of Gross National Happiness and GNP in Davos. The Nordic Experience theme at the Annual Meeting was addressing just that.

In an exceptional gathering, even for Davos, five Nordic heads of state explored best practices. The Nordic elite gathered, extending well beyond the speakers to include H.R.H. Prince Haakon of Norway, Carl Bildt and opposition leaders. Klaus Schwab presented the panel of Rasmussen, Stoltenberg, Reinfeldt, Halonen and Grimsson personally. Non-Nordic representatives were also represented with Kofi Annan in the front row.

Stoltenberg’s initial sigh of relief “it is nice to be abroad”, emphasized that this was a rare celebratory event, looking exclusively at the successes of the Nordic countries: top rankings in the Competitiveness Index, running healthy budget surpluses through 2008, low levels of public indebtedness, high national savings, narrow interest rate spreads, transparent institutions, open access to research, and top performances in the areas of health, employment, sustainability, political stability, security, gender equality and community cohesion.

Tackling the aging demographics and BRIC country competition were the only real concerns raised. I believe, however, that the main challenge is of another nature. Halonen said that the Nordic countries are not a brotherhood, but a sisterhood; still market economies, but caring ones (caring being a feminine value). And Grimsson said the Nordic ethos is responsible for helping the Icelandic economy recover. These niceties are not replicable across value systems. Even the more pragmatic flex-security model is not guaranteed to be easily exportable to other economic circumstances. If the Nordic Experience is proposed as an alternative to the American Dream it is not enough to merely have a competitive set-up and protestant values. You need a clear and compelling vision that is replicable.

Wake up a kid in Harare at any time of the night and they could recite the American Dream regardless of their political inclination. Ask just about any immigrant in Scandinavia what the Nordic Experience is, or what makes them Scandinavians and they probably would have no ready answer. Even with perpetual European hangovers from past and present ideologies, a coherent ideology is needed to package and spread a New Economic Paradigm.

Although the Nordic countries have substantiated Stoltenberg’s quote du jour, “there is no contradiction between equality and efficiency,” it needs to be presented as a clear and compelling vision able to be implemented in non-homogenous countries and across cultures.

Jens Martin Skibsted, founding partner of KiBiSi and Biomega, is one of most inspiring and creative Danish designers and design thinkers, whose work has been accredited worldwide. He is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and Global Agenda Council on Design member. And awarded the 40 Under 40 Design Award 2010. In 2009 he co-founded the product design supergroup KiBiSi with Lars Holme Larsen and Bjarke Ingels. He was born in 1970 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

By Jens Martin Skibsted  | January 29, 2011; 10:20 AM ET
Categories:  Jens Martin Skibsted  
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Posted by: elisajallen | January 30, 2011 1:26 AM | Report abuse

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