What Japanese companies want to learn from Finland

September 11, 2015

Read time 3 min

Finnish and Japanese ways of working share many similarities. Both value quality and precision, cherish people-centric company cultures and strategize in the long term.

Volume-wise, the Japanese market is obviously on an entirely different level than that of Finland. However, whereas Japanese performance has always been top notch, Finnish companies have developed an ability to act quickly and efficiently.

Finnish Business Day 2015 was all about speedy innovations combined with another important yet controversial virtue: information security. The idea behind FBD was to get together a mixture of representatives of different indusries – telco, e-commerce, gaming, media, even constructions – who share a common interest in building high quality, secure services faster. The event took place at the Finnish Embassy in Tokyo – thank you for having us on Finnish territory!

Speed and security are often considered mutually exclusive features when, in fact, they don’t have to bePekka Usva from F-Secure talked about the Finnish personal identity code system (HETU) and its use in Finland. The topic happens to be particularly hot in Japan: the Japanese government is currently preparing the introduction “My Number”, a new social security and tax number system, to the public.

The Finnish system, however convenient and secure in the past, has its pitfalls. It originates from a social security reform in the 1960s – back then, potential risks like identity theft in the digital era could not be foreseen. The process is built entirely around the assumption that data is always correct: “If the system says you’re dead, you are dead.” Furthermore, the ID code in itself does not provide a means of authentication; service providers have to come up with authentication techniques of their own.

Can the current Finnish system be fit for the digital society, then? The Finnish population register master database is offline; open APIs are not provided and the access to the database is very restricted. Companies like F-Secure are presenting new innovations of privacy protection, but only time will tell whether countries like Japan will soon be in a position to teach Finland how to do social security in the 21st century.

Our very own Tuomas Routto discussed the topic of successful services and fast innovations. He claims that successful services tend to share some key ingredients: they’re built for a purpose, solve a real problem and provide the user with a well designed experience, to name a few. This, Tuomas argues, is where a rapid development lab comes in.

A rapid development lab is a unit inside a company with total autonomy and all the means needed to create something new – a multifunctional team with skill in developing, concepting, designing, marketing, and whatnot. Rapid prototyping follows the cycle of understanding user needs, building solutions, testing the solutions, learning from feedback, and starting all over again.

The success of the lab boils down to one thing: the talent. Tuomas recommends handpicking your rapid development team. According to him, finding and hiring talented people with the right attitude and then giving them the freedom to do what they feel is best is what successful services are all about.

Nowadays, virtually everyone in Finland is familiar with the success story called Slush. Over the past few years, Slush has become one of the biggest events in Finland, gathering together over 14.000 startups, investors and reporters from all around the world. Now Slush is taking over Japan, too: Antti Sonninen from Slush Asia talks about the rise of a new mentality in the Japanese startup scene.

Slush Asia’s goal is to make Japan a more exciting place to start a company in. This year, a community of about 300 volunteers made Slush Asia happen. No matter how big of a deal Slush Asia might become, the organizers want the event to remain global, open and cool, with no unnecessary bureaucracy or VIP areas. According to Antti, the future looks bright for the startup ecosystem in Japan.

Special thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate our new Tokyo office’s housewarming party afterwards! The featured photo of this post was taken at our brand new home. We had an absolute blast and are looking forward to seeing you again soon!

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