Wallstreet Journal on Finnish EducationPosted: March 4, 2008
The Wall Street Journal writes on What Makes Finnish Kids so Smart? I wont go into answering "what", you can read the article. What I would like to ask is how do we as Finns benefit? The wages for skilled professionals are amongst the lowest in the union. The wealthy metro Helsinki area doesn’t fit on to the list of top ten metro areas in the union with regards to average household earnings. Well you have to consider the cost of living! Well guess what, we do not fit in the top ten for disposable household income either.
The Finnish market is so small that any growth potential is quickly capped. The only way to fully utilize this intelligent labour force is to venture out internationally. This is where it gets tricky. The Finnish society works well in feeding the pipeline with skilled labourers and nurishing innovation, but after that you are on your own. Having over priced air fares to any destination and being hours by plane from any major market is not a asset. President Halonen spoke against the brain drain from Finland. After all that human capital has been trained with state funds. Why can’t we understand that it just makes sense to move sales and marketing close to major markets, as long as innovation stays. When I fly to Finland from Atlanta my trans-atlantic leg is less expensive than my 3 hour flight from a European hub to Helsinki. A seat on the Finnair flight from Moscow to NY is cheaper then hopping on the same plane in Helsinki. Now how effective can it be to have a atleast 2 1/2 flight to any major market in central Europe? That would be like having my HQ in Minot, North Dakota… I wonder why they do not have any fortune 500 HQs up there?
There is a popular cartoon about a rural Finnish village where the inhabitants do totally idiotic things… good naturadly. Well according to the OECD Finns are on average the smartest villagers in the world. I emphasize the word "villagers".
Reduce income tax so that we will be ranked in the top 3 metro areas for disposable house hold income in the Union. You will see that the brain drain will reverse itself drawing the best and brightest foreigners to Finland. This will in return internationalize Finnish industry from bottom up and not just from an ownership perspective.
It is also an attitude issue. As Finns enjoy a high quality of living, well rounded government funded education and tend to be well abreast of international issues (since local Finnish news can be a bit dull), we tend to make judgements on actins taken by others around the world… human nature. Our experiences define who we are more strongly than the books we have read. We interpret what we read based on what our life experiences are. Having lived in a fairly homogeneous society with limited true experiences of other cultures we actually tend to be a bit jaded in our views. This is glaringly obvious in international commerce. We tend to think that models we have perfected in the Finnish market should be understood and adopted by all. You can ask why Nokia doesn’t have over 30% market share in the US as well? Until we learn to see world markets the way that the people living in those markets see them we will not be very effective.
Companies should make international rotations mandatory for employees to progress in their carreers.