22.10.2015 00:04

The challenge of change


Guest blog by Alexander Stubb, Finland’s Finance Minister

We humans are a paradoxical breed: we can both love and fear change at the same time. On one hand, we can be conservative and skeptical about changes that threaten a comfortable pattern or routines that we are used to. On the other hand, we can get excited when things improve for the better.

Two megatrends exemplify our approach to change: technology and globalization. Do you see them as a threat or as an opportunity?

In my previous Blue Wings column I discussed the notion of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and posed the question of whether machines will one day become smarter than humans. This technological advancement is naturally a cause for concern. Yet, at the same time we use AI in our daily lives in everything from search engines to smart phones. Machines are already making better diagnoses than doctors in some areas. 

Globalization is great because it takes solutions that work in one place and makes them work everywhere. In some parts of the world, people are being lifted out of poverty. Yet there are folks who fear and reject globalization.

This summer I read Peter Thiel’s bestseller From Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future (Virgin Books, 2014). Thiel is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of PayPal and Palantir. On top of that, he was the first outside investor in Facebook and funded companies such as SpaceX and LinkedIn. He does not fear change.

Thiel’s book is about how to build companies that create new solutions. It looks at patterns of success. Thiel does not provide a simple formula for success because one does not exist. On the contrary, he argues that every company should invest in the task of creating new things.

It is much easier to copy a model than to make something new. Doing what we already know, Thiel argues, takes us from 1 to 1, adding more of something familiar.

The key is to create something new: that is what takes us from 0 to 1. I like his way of thinking. In order for you to create something new, to improve, you have to think – and act – outside the box. Copying increases quantity. Creating something new improves quality.

I have never believed in those who complain about youngsters. A new generation is always collectively smarter than its predecessors. It has been exposed to more ideas, knows more, and will have more experiences than we did. Why? Because humans keep on progressing, inventing, and developing. 

That is why we should all love, not fear, change.

Alexander Stubb's column was originally published in Finnair's Blue Wings magazine (October 2015)

You can follow Alexander Stubb on Twitter as @alexstubb