This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I have an interview with Pekka Viljakainen, globally renowned executive, thought-leader, strategist, and entrepreneur. Pekka played an important role in the recent world economic forum hosted in Russia due to his international standing where Pekka’s new book received much attention. 3400 executives and politicians participated at this VIP event, including Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, Russian President Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao.
Mr. Pekka Viljakainen, born in Finland, is a past president (leaving in October 2010) of Tieto International, a team of 8400 advisors operating in 24 countries. He studied engineering at the University of Technology in Lappeenranta. Thanks to his technical background and passion for business, Mr. Viljakainen has for 20 years worked as an ambassador between business executives and technology teams. He started as an entrepreneur in 1986, by establishing Oy Visual Systems Ltd. He joined Tieto in 2000 through the acquisition of his company. Mr. Viljakainen's reputation and track record for handling very complex governance and political topics inside large international organizations and delivering results earned him the nickname "Bulldozer". At Tieto he was one of the leading architects in building a more efficient information society.
Mr. Viljakainen is heavily involved in promoting the necessary preparations for a true revolution of services and the deep strategically role of digitalization across Europe, Russia and China. As a true partner for organizations in most industries, Mr. Viljakainen has analyzed the fundamental change in consumer behaviour and its implications for the corporate strategies in all information intensive businesses.
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
:00:30: Pekka, you have many remarkable international successes. Thank you for sharing your considerable expertise, deep accumulated insights, and wisdom with our audience. "....Thank you it's wonderful to be here. I'm happy to tell everything that I know about these issues you have on the agenda...."
:00:51: You expressed an interest in the IFIP World CIO Forum or WCF. Why should CIOs, senior executives, government, industry and academic leaders participate in the World CIO Forum? [Editor's note: For more information go to: www.worldcioforum.com; Call for papers; WCF news in the IFIP Newsletter ]. "....The world has changed to the direction that you have to understand what is happening not only in other parts of the world but also in other business domains. Leadership is all about learning...."
:02:22: How do you feel the WCF will take its participants, IT executives, and the industry in general to the next level? "....It's not good enough just to run the business. It used to be the main objective of the Chief Information Officers was to reduce costs and to get operations running, but now it's clearly to support business and business decisions....If you get some of the hints and tips from others in venues like this, you are automatically lifted to the new level...."
:03:39: You are a very successful entrepreneur. What success tips can you share from your past history of starting your company, growing the company, and then having the company acquired? "....You have to have your full heart and soul in what you are doing....Work hard and have a willingness to learn and to question your own decisions....Everything in this world becomes global – every single business model, leader, and support process – whatever you do should be globally competitive...."
:06:01: Can you describe your time at your immediate past company, and some of the roles you played at that company, and what lessons you can share from this experience? "....It's pretty much same as what I said about becoming global. You can't copy leadership from [one] country to other countries. You have to coach and educate your team in all the countries...."
:07:47: Can you share some leadership success stories from your own personal journey? "....I was born as a nerd and then this leadership came as kind of a mandatory thing. It was a tough school for me but ultimately I think I managed relatively well...."
:08:53: What led you to write your current book and the reason behind its title, "No Fear: Business Leadership in the Age of Digital Cowboys"? "....My first idea was to crystallize my leadership philosophy and what I have learned – in corporate papers – about 10 to 15 pages....But when I went through all the notes, it was actually quite a big pack of things and interconnected issues and it ended up to be a book....The title "No Fear: Business Leadership in the Age of Digital Cowboys" is clearly stating the basic idea of what I'm saying – the fear of executives of losing face, which is the single biggest factor for companies to grow and to grow their next level of leader....."
:11:13: Why did you write this book with support from, Mark Mueller-Eberstein? "....I thought that he would be a good teammate for me to give a different flavor from the US standpoint, but also to have kind of a US based mega-enterprise view....I think it was a good match between our competencies and our backgrounds...."
:12:23: Can you describe a few of the chapters in the book and what value they deliver to readers? "....I think that the basic phenomena everybody can see around them. But we wanted to explain what is the combination of globalization, [the] new PlayStation generation and the rapid change of technology. What does it mean from the corporate strategy standpoint, from the leadership standpoint and also on a wider scale for the society?...."
:14:00: From your own personal perspective, why would readers find relevance in the book? "....They see the change and now after the global recession all the Chief Executives are asking where is the next growth. Suddenly the key talent pool is this PlayStation generation. So there are a lot of people who are searching for answers and tangible, concrete things of what to do and how to change their own behavior.....There is also the 3rd element and I'm referring to how the leadership should be evolving in the emerging markets like China, Russia and Latin America...."
:15:35: You have personal relationships with many of the invited global leaders who are actively participating in the book. Can you describe your journey with some of the leaders and the dialogue they will spark? "....I started on a very, very small scale in very small projects 20 to 25 years ago and I've built a personal relationship with many of these executives in enterprise as well as some politicians in the big countries....They are quite amazing people and they are quite open to sharing their concerns but also their best practices of what they have done to tackle these issues mentioned in the No Fear book...."
:17:22: In your dialogues and in your travels all over the world to over 40 countries and working with this book, can you describe something unique that you discovered in this research and then writing the book? "....The one extremely important point that I found out was that something is happening in this world where this generation, because of this 2.0 internet revolution, are behaving in quite the same way all over the world....[The differences are] much smaller than with their parents. One thing I found is if you built your strategy the right way, you could really expand your business globally...."
:19:41: In all the chapters of your book you have specific lessons and actions that executives can do. Can you share some of these lessons from your book? "....I think originally it was from MIT, about amplify simplify philosophy, meaning that originally all the big changes in a company was happening like a top-down change that you made a strategy and then you rolled it down all the way from Chief Executive to every corner of the company. While handling these new talents and being in the social media world its practically impossible to do changes like that. You have to have a very front line oriented management team and managers who are actually finding out the right elements from the very front line of the business, and then simplifying those to the very extreme before pushing them all the way down the organization...."
:23:37: You travel a lot and this travelling continues. Can you describe your current and future work and how you plan to integrate your work with the promotion of the book? "....This book project is to share what I know so promotion for me is to participate in all the events around the world to tell the message and that's important for me. Travelling is or has been part of my life. It's not all of my life but it is an important part because you cannot develop yourself as an executive if you stay home...."
:24:44: With your considerable international experience, provide you provide some of your predictions for the future? "....Globalization will accelerate in all businesses.....They [business leaders] have to open up their minds and they have to understand in depth what is happening in leadership and in business around the world.....We haven't seen not even the smallest part of all the technology innovation which are just around the corner....The market, the business will pull to those [emerging] countries. There is a lot of money, there is a lot of talent and in reality those countries with most of the talent will win the economic craze. That's why for many Western companies it is the only way going forward to build the business with those teams, with those countries, those talents...."
:26:33: What are the most interesting questions you get asked related to the book and your work and what are your answers? "....Most of the questions are very practical....I think I have covered those quite well in the No Fear book. I've really tried to share those in a very open manner in a very transparent way...."
:28:06: Which resources would you recommend to support professionals in their work? "....For me it has been extremely important to have a very open and natural dialogue with my enterprise customers....Major business schools have made a remarkable step - instead of preaching from old books published ten years back, they've actually become major hubs for sharing information in their social media way....When I was working in a big enterprise I was sharing lots of my material in our internal social media even when I knew they were not 100 percent correct and there were mistakes. It was wonderful to get 18,000 colleagues to correct my mistakes. They were not searching for answers, they were actually searching for my mistakes and I learned a lot...."
:31:53: What are challenges you were not able to overcome at the time and how would you do things differently now? "....I was quite young when I started in business and I never understood how important it is for a leader to be a coach. It [coaching] is an often systematic and sometimes brutal process and way of working to develop and to build very honest and direct feedback to the people....I was kind of weak on that when I check back twenty years....There is nothing more important for a leader and you cannot outsource that to some HR unit or external consultant. If the leader is reluctant to do that he should not be a leader...."
:34:33: Past, present, and future - who inspires you and why is this so? "....The most important people who have impacted me come mostly from the customer side or from my business partner side...."
:36:04: You choose the topic area. What do you see as some top challenges facing us today and what are some solutions you would propose? "....The world is open for complete transparency and competition. It means you have to have a very solid way of working and you have to be crystal clear what you want and how you want your team to work.....If your business model is not globally competitive, rethink it, because now you have all the sources of information available, get the best practices and openly combine it with your own domain knowledge...."
:37:52: If you were asking the questions, what questions would you have asked and what would be your answers? "....Is there something in the "New Fear: Business Leadership in the Age of Digital Cowboys" book that you would do differently?...Will there be a "No Fear 2.0" book where you would go further into certain elements?...."