Monday, 19 March 2012

EDGE2012 Highlights

The EDGE2012 seminar was held on Friday March 16 at the School of Business and Economics at Åbo Akademi University in Finland. This time our theme for the event was Business development in an age of upheaval. The Keynote speakers came from contrasting backgrounds, this was a vital part of the design of the event. And it worked. The crowd was very active and we got a good dialog going both live at the seminar and on Twitter #EDGE2012.

The Keynote speakers illustrated the theme from their specific industry point of view and Professor Alf Rehn pointed out that upheaval is a common state of affairs today. In fact there are no best practices to manage the transformation of an industry in the digital era, only creative ways for growth and survival. The role of the Business Schools is to teach their students to find new business concepts rather than copy old business models. The boundaries of each industry are changing rapidly in an ecosystem shaped by changing consumer behavior combined with new technology.

UPM - by its industrial roots a paper manufacturer - is now The Biofore Company. Jyrki Ovaska, President of UPM's Paper Business Group pointed out that whilst cash flow is still largely derived from the old business of graphic paper and forestry related products, there is a constant development towards new business areas and new service concepts. Among the new business concepts are products relating to ecological materials for building and living, as well as new sources of energy. One of the new business areas is Wood Based Biodiesel, where UPM now invests 150 million euros to build the world's first biorefinery producing wood-based biodiesel in Lappeenranta, Finland. And the related R&D expenditure is significant. The new Bioforest Industry is based on renewable and recyclable materials, CO2 capturing products and UPM is the company driving the renewal. UPM's ability to generate cash flow from its old business areas sets the pace for the transformation. In the short term improved profitability in paper products is achieved through consolidation, cost synergies and restructuring. 

The Paper Industry is undergoing perhaps the largest structural change ever, with a decline in paper demand in the Western world. The question is can paper be dynamic in the digitalized world. Paper is still the ultimate "Chill Media" - providing a moment of focus and relaxation to the reader. UPM believe in a future of coexistence of digital and print media. Good examples of this are printed products like The Monocle magazine - a luxury product available only in print, the introduction of Augmented Reality in the recent issue of Esquire, Wallpaper magazine with its various covers and the printed cook books featuring the Angry Birds characters. The uniqueness of print on paper is underlined by the senses - touch, sight, sound, taste and even smell! The bottom line of the Keynote is whilst there is heavy investment into new business areas, there are three things to remember from a management point of view: Revenue is vanity - Profit is sanity - Cash is reality! 

At the end of his keynote Jyrki confessed that whilst he believes in the future of print he also likes his iPad a lot.

Bonnier Publications is a relatively new player on the Finnish media scene. Established in 2006 by its CEO Marjaana Toiminen, the company has created many niche magazines for the discerning reader combined with novel ways of creating content and developing readership. Olivia is a magazine for young women, started in 2007 and with 152,000 readers in 2011. A host of events and mobile apps support the magazines and create a solid base for customership. Apps have been developed by several teams engaging young students at Development Camps held at the Aalto University Enterprise Society. As Marjaana pointed out Bonnier aim to create stories that make a difference, content is created with a Heart & Soul in close co-operation with the readers. A concrete example of this is "Oma Olivia" - a project of crowdsourcing and co-creation of content. The process was designed together with Tanja Aitamurto, a visiting Researcher at Stanford University. Readers of Olivia had a chance to contribute with their ideas, to tell whom they admire, what questions to ask to this person and to co-create the cover of the magazine. The process was a tremendous success, some 900 young women aged 20-29 contributed with their ideas, more than 5,000 visited the website each week during the process and the magazine increased its advertising sales by 20% compared with the previous year. 

Marjaana pointed out that a challenger in the Finnish media landscape needs friends to survive, and certainly Bonnier Publications have been clever in making friends and creating a partner network of value. The seminar audience had a lot of questions to Marjaana, who continued her travel to attend the Bonnier gala in Stockholm on the very same evening. 

Last, but not least of the Keynote speakers we had a talk given by Peter Vesterbacka, Mighty Eagle of Rovio Entertainment. He stated that Rovio Entertainment is not just a gaming company, it's the fastest growing entertainment brand in the world. Ever. And to underline this he showed us the launch video promoted by NASA for the new game Angry Birds Space, which will have its galactic premiere on March, 22. In fact the Mighty Eagle argued with tongue-in-cheek that Angry Birds will save NASA's space program, as it will make science matter to all kids and other people across the globe. In fact education through Angry Birds is a great way to teach kids and - for the company - it really is a good way to be responsible. Peter also mentioned how Rovio care about the kids, showcasing this through the blog by a mother of an autistic child - see Momma's Time.

The Angry Birds Space video can by found on YouTube featuring Don Pettit from the ISS as the narrator - see Angry Birds Space: NASA announcement.
Peter also told us about the book project with National Geographic, another example of good co-operation and clever marketing by Rovio Entertainment. 

Commenting on recent developments in the business world Peter made his point for entrepreneurship - he is not driven by money, but rather the ambition to develop Angry Birds into the first global entertainment brand with a Billion fans. He strongly believes in team work  and every person counts as long as they are committed to the job and contribute to the company and their personal development with passion. I quite agree with this as I'm a passionate person and like what I do for a reason! We thank Peter for his time, it's a long way from the SXSW event held in Austin, Texas to Finland and the School of Business and Economics in Åbo, celebrating its 85 years in business with the EDGE2012 event.

Our very own Professor Alf Rehn rounded up the day by saying "Joker is more interesting than Batman". Students should try to understand the logic of being a questioner, challenging old models for doing things. The questions to ask in Finland is not will there be a new Nokia or a new success story like Angry Birds, but rather to break the boundaries and find creative ways of doing business in any field of trade.

The arrangers of EDGE2012 would like to thank all of you who participated and those who commented and cheered for us on Facebook and on Twitter. This blog was co-created with all of you. 

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