New leadership!

 KL: Simon Sinek NBForum 2015
Simon Sinek was in Finland (F: Link in Finnish) and was asked for some advice for our government. The situation is bad, but together you can pull through: just involve all the people.

My friend is educating herself more, in order to make her two degrees more compatible to the market. There are some remarkable theories, she shrieked, but they're all in vain, if the grassroot employer doesn't have them as a tool. 

This is how it all dawned on me.

As we were reaping the harvest this weekend, I offered to prepare some zucchini soup. For some reason ;) my mother in law was very articulate to guide me through the motions. Okay, she is a small woman, and the zucchinis were quite big.. Anyway, just split them in half and then half the other way. Okay? 

A few moments later I stand with my academic degree, pondering what Sinek had just said in my earphones, and there is this vast very curved up zucchini. Can I just cut the giant into three pieces so that I can use the knife more handily..? 

Flash of understanding!

THIS is why processes make organization dumber! That is why they drop the customer in between where it just ain't nobody's business to help her out.. 

The guidelines were specific. One who desires to do it the other way just has to have a bigger picture about what it is she or he is doing. Without the bigger picture (without courage to try something else?) the advice at hand is the only way to move on, till the doomsday. Guidelines without a licence to apply belong to assembly line only. And yes, by all means, do transfer that work to the robots!

A good leader inspires and gives hope, Sinek also said, and lets people solve their common problem together.

Later (F) someone asked where to get a leader like that.

It is not about the core knowledge of one particular leader, it is shared leadership. It is time to act, for these problems cannot be solved by one man.  Or one woman.


Get rid of the locks!

Civil society has arisen with the new government. Great ideas gather people together, but it seems to me that the Establishment is unable to find a way to involve the greatest asset it can dream to have working for it, along side: the people.

A lot has been done in ministries for the Change to happen. Co-creation and openness are in. Ministry networks evolve as civil servants reach out for each other.

But is the Establishment already too big to change? The ball is in the air, approaching with speed. Can we catch it??

In Finland there is will to join "the 5% movement" that our Prime Minister Sipilä declared as he published the new Gov't program. Civil servants, those who get along fine with their salary, started to look out for each other to join the campaign. So did the People. Their spokeswoman, Ms. Henni Ahvenlampi bombarded the Establishment in search for a way to involve.

No answer.

What happens to agility when Establishment really cements its ways to work, writes down responsibilities and procedures and cuts processes into pieces accordingly? It seems to me that anything outside of the Planned just falls in between. No catch.

If we really want the People to join in, we - the Government, the Establishment - need to open up the locks.

We have a growing problem of mould with houses that were once renovated against winds and moist.

There is no air inside. We suffocate.

Note: All links in Finnish


From openness to sustainability

My daughter is studying psychology and explains all our actions with different theories. Something like that got started last week on the Open Knowledge Festival.

On Wednesday Ministry of Finance arranged an open "hackathon" (F) for developing a country plan in order to join Open Government Partnership along with 70 other countries.

Open government, Open knowledge, Open data.. 

Opening data has been on agenda for a year now. Short-sightedly, I have settled for aiming to opening up government spending.

Last week I came across with broader views that obviously had been there for me to find. With a colleague from Isle of Man we discussed how to find and visualize the influence behind faceless enterprises. How to spot the power links in the world economy and what exactly is the thing that needs to be opened if we aim to find the real places of influence?

Customer journeys in one's own mother tongue

Data visualization came up in Visualizing Knowledge (F) seminar on Monday. Rob Waller linked literacy built on structured documents with the concept of customer journey.

On Thursday I got a sort of a wake up call on the real significance of mother tongue. I got acquainted with contract visualization already on Monday, in English. But it wasn't until M!ND researcher Stefania Passera gave the same speech in Finnish, my own mother tongue, that really got my own thinking going.

As the pieces gained their familiarity in Finnish I became able to apply the newly learned methods in the phenomena in my own work.

So this is what it means to really understand what the official actually wants of me!

Open data is not knowledge, interpretation creates understanding

In the end we got taught by a living legend. Hans Rosling so knows how to visualize "boring" data, how to interpret it and how to communicate the phenomena lurking behind millions of rows of raw data. If Bush can get it, so can you, he concluded :)

Opening data, knowledge and government means more.
Openness is the way to sustainability.


From beggars to better customer service

It's a winning ticket in lottery to be born in Finland (and stay in Finland). No need to scrape bank accounts in order to be able to pay one's taxes nor try to find a way to pay them. You don't even have that much to declare any more.

We've been able to arrange declaring as automatic as possible for the citizen. This is possible firstly with tax card (F) with which employers and other payers withhold tax on behalf of the citizen and pay him the net amount. In the end of each year, payers file annual notification (F) on the amounts paid to and for the citizen. This information is then printed in the citizen's tax return.

My cousin filed her tax return in Great Britain at about the same time, in the beginning of May. She needed to report all the six jobs, draw them from her personal filing system and report separately to HMRC. No data available from previous years. What the service did offer, was a few intelligent questions to rule out things not relevant in this customer segment. 

In Finland tax payer morale is exemplary. Last year we received a question from a customer on poker income. "I didn't know I needed to file it, can I still make it right this year?" asked a young guy admirably.

The latest example is Helsingin Sanomat Editor-in-Chief Riikka Venäläinen asking for help in reporting (Apua arjen pahiksille, F). We need better guidance in order to make it right! she rightfully demands.

From beggars to better customer service

In Italy tax authorities still attempt to effect attitudes: if you don't pay your taxes, you're a parasite: Parassita della Società, in YouTube. In Georgia, previously a Soviet state, tax administration needed to find the tax payers and their addresses in order to fill in their customer registry. The US, on the other hand, passed a law, FATCA, that demands that worldwide financial institutions file the information on behalf of US citizens - in case they didn't.

In comparison, our tax authorities are allowed to concentrate on designing better services to ensure maximum filing (where still needed). It is our aim to automate and streamline data gathering further so that it become less and less burdensome.

In our R&D efforts we try to find the most efficient and innovative ways to take care of what little reporting obligations there still remains.

This year I for one didn't even bother to open my tax return on paper. Everything I needed was in the web: receipts in my web bank or Amazon, self-aggregated reports in Google Docs etc.

Taxation in web bank?

In taxation the outcome is more or less an invoice. It is either debit or credit: you'll be granted a refund for excessive amount of taxes withheld according to your tax card or you are due an amount equaling underpayment. And the summary presents all the details of which the outcome consists of.

In this thinking tax return is my statement on the preliminary invoice. My demands for deductions adjust the calculation of the amount due.

If I were to decide, I'd send the tax invoice straight to my web bank - no more paper invoices, thank you very much! All the details needed in evaluation or corrections already await there. The most used attachments are certificates of the interests, summaries of stock exchange sales or dividends.

Would it be possible to adjust the amounts in taxation while in web bank? At least one could enter Tax Return Online while there, right?

Close the gaps on customer journey!

Riikka Venäläinen described what happens, when customer journey is not well planned. An excellent journey offers all the things needed but only the ones needed. Who else would know better what is needed than tax authorities?

Helsingin Sanomat is already answering the call to development by opening a blog (Virka-aika, in Finnish) Firstly, they want to gather citizen's experiences on poor customer experiences in public authorities. Secondly, they search for solutions collaboratively.

Tax administration says thank you and takes part in the project.


Happy 94th Independence Day, Finland!

This Independence Day also Google wanted to congratulate us.

Today Google.fi is blue and white. Nice!

My home country..
Thousands of Lakes - Pure Nature - Nightless Nights - Snow White Snow


Open data connects taxation with public spending

Knowledge is power, they say. In western countries we aim to control public decision making by making it transparent and opening it for discussion. The voters then have the power to change the decision makers they're unhappy with.

Doesn't the Arab Spring source from lack of that openness?

When we think of the complex causal connections within societies, it is obvious that the voting power is distributed unevenly. How do you care about something you don't understand?

Open data enables democracy

The recent development in ICT comes in handy. Open data makes, say, presenting government spending in a more conceivable way much easier than the dead-boring budget ledgers could ever achieve.

Apps4Finland is a competition that has really boosted innovation for a few years now. It has invited IT nerds to come up with stunning solutions of presenting data. But it is also advancing open government with invitations to open data.

My personal favorite is data visualization. Due to my background, here are a few examples that are closely related to taxation.

Taxes and other payments as a proportion of a working day

A day as an tax payer (F) describes with a watch, how your gross earnings would be divided into different payments. Click the watch for further information. Hovering the mouse above the watch takes you further in details.

First section of your earnings belongs to you, it is your net salary. Second section will cover your municipality tax and the third your state tax. The fourth sector is your share of pension fees and the fifth section will be spent on other minor fees.

Tax receipt shows how you finance the society

Tax receipt (F), on the other hand, shows you, based on your salary, how you will be financing public spending. The application is based on state budget and general information of tax percentages. Since the state budget is quite difficult with its bureaucratic wordings to apprehend, this is quite a nice way to get a hold of the bigger picture of government spending.

Yet another strong symbol of the Nordic openness and equality in Finland is that Tax Administration opens the so called public data on how individuals actually were taxed each year. Tax Administration publishes on its website information on
How the publication of data is carried out (F)
What is included in the public data (F)

Public data can be used to show how the tax laws apply to different tax payer groups. After the people have the information, they will be more able to analyze it and draw conclusions on their society, respectively. And we'll be one step closer to democracy.


Looking For A Meaningful Life

I found my Mitch Albom in Paris. His book 'Have A Little Faith' caught my eye at the airport on our way home from Lyon. It is one of those books you can't let go until you've read it. So I wanted to pick up more Alboms in my Christmas reading cart at Amazon.

Yesterday I finished 'Tuesdays With Morrie'. The story was wonderful. It seemed to have all the answers I was thinking about in my last blog.

We have two main challenges in our western worker's lives. The first is how to be a good human: a parent, child, spouse, friend, citizen. The second is how to be a good worker.

Problems arise when our priorities get mixed. It seems that we are rushing around looking for shortcuts to Fame and Fortune. In that race we pause at the altar of Mammon to sacrifice everything that really carries a meaning in our lives.

One aspect of that rat race was covered by columnist Jaakko Lyytinen who wrote (Helsingin Sanomat Dec 24, 2010, page D4) about his week without media. On his third day he pondered about slow movement, downshifting and degrowth. On the outcome of the information society he quoted Dr. Jussi T. Koski:
Complicating every day life makes us simple minded.
Dr. Koski explains this further: It happens, because our time is consumed in surviving by dealing with different types of messes and putting out fires in our ordinary lives instead of true learning or gaining sustainable growth as human beings (as we should, eh?).

Hence, our obsessive consumption of media (as in hunt for more knowledge to grow wiser?) seems to turn against our better judgement.

Another media coverage in Taloussanomat, (F) hit really hard with its title: "30-year-olds need dementia pills in order to work". The article talked about doping in work and the new standard of workers. Stock brokers with no fear, no need to sleep, knowledge workers boosting their brain with dementia pills, the new office cocaine.

..they're chasing the wrong things..
What is interesting, is that excessive media consumption can actually be explained with chemical reactions in our brains. According to researchers Irving Biederman and Edward A Vessel, every time we learn something new, this realization releases chemicals that make us feel a bliss. Isn't that what different drugs do, thus causing addiction?

Would that be the all-covering explanation to all the discontent we struggle with and neglect we cause one another? That we've changed everything enduring (that can only be built with time, slowly and gradually) in our lives to something drug-like, something that can and will take us high and fast (until we need a bigger dose).

A culture with a cry "I want everything and I want it right now! Move out of my way!"

..people walk aroung with a meaningless life..
And in that altar of Mammon we abandon our kids - and our soul. Taloussanomat (F) analyzed in another article that parents who take work at home actually steal precious time and attention from their children. Trying to attend to kids with only half of your heart never works.

The crime in it is that we're all they've got. Their self-esteem is built on our attention and interest in them. The mere thought rises a silent sob deep within me.

This is where I want to bring in my Albom.

In 'The Five People You Meet in Heaven' Albom haunts his reader by saying "All parents damage their children. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers". Fortunately, he also relieves the reader with his message of forgiveness.

Inspite all our past damages, we are blessed with possessing the key to our freedom. We just need to use it. We need to open the door that is stopping us. It is called letting go.

Mitch asks Morrie about getting used to his illness. "It's like going back to being a child again", Morrie says.

This theme of letting go and forgiving, others and - what is sometimes even harder - oneself, is strongly present in Albom's themes. If you were being deprived in your childhood, don't lose the rest of your life by letting your past hold you a captive. Dare to confront your fears and losses. Step outside your anger. Go after anything you've missed.

Be this wonderful person you now are, with your scars and deprivations and all.

Morrie's entire being becomes somehow victorious in front of death. In order to be able to go on to the very end, he finds the small pleasures of life anew.

"In the beginning of life we need others to survive. And at the end of life, you need others to survive. But here's the secret: in the between, we need others, as well", he reveals to Mitch. He dares to rely on Life, totally, like once before, as a child. He says,
The truth is, once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.
"So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things."

After all, you are in charge of the rest of your life, whether you're going to be happy or miserable. Once the one who hurt you is gone, there is nothing he or she can do about your feelings. It's up to you now. Only you can let go. The choice is yours.

"The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devoting yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning."

Previously on related topics:
Who is Man 2.0?
Empower every man