Like so many other European countries Sweden needs to tackle the realities of demography: The population is ageing and too few people work. Last year every working individual in the country supported 1.44 individuals who were not part of the workforce and that figure will continue to grow.
There is great awareness of this and in a new report from The Ministry of Finance the researchers investigate which groups that could potentially be more strongly represented on the labour market. Their conclusion is that the most important groups are:
Young people (16-24)
Older people (55+)
My obvious reflection is that if these insights lead to actual changes we will get greater diversity in terms of age, gender, culture and ethnicity and according to The Medici Effect diversity drives innovation. Consequently the shift that is suggested in the report will not only solve the quantitative problems of demography – it will also have a qualitative impact on the economy. A greater mix will generate creativity, innovation, business and welfare and therefore I see this as another opportunity to argue that immigration is beneficial for Sweden (or for any other country).
I just want to share another example of benefits of migration: In Nigeria immigrants from Zimbabwe have brought with them new methods and new kinds of cattle that have improved agriculture in the country significantly. It is interesting that these things still happen and that the movement of people makes a difference in such a basic way.
Yes, I know, IT can be integrated into anything and the combinations are not automatically intriguing just because they are new and far-fetched. What I do like about Smartus, however, is that it is not just another use of IT for the sake of it. The objective is to explore the pedagogical use of physical play as a method for learning – and IT interactivity happens to be the ideal tool to achieve that.
Smartus collaborates with different providers of content, software, and technology but also with university researchers to study how the IT applications facilitate teaching and learning processes. At this intersection they create playgrounds that are suitable for pre-schools, schools, experience parks, shopping centres and other contexts.
Over the last couple of weeks there has been a new wave of articles about the homogeneity of Swedish company boards. The focus this time, luckily, is not only the unfairness of it but also the negative business consequences of lack of diversity.
In one article for instance, Carina Lundberg Markow, head of Corporate Governance at Folksam (one of Sweden’s biggest insurance companies) claims that it is necessary to vitalize the boards. And vitalize means diversify. Her argument is that international competition is hard and sixty year old men are actually not very good at predicting trends in a global world where markets change fast. I'd say that is a very good argument.
Only one in five board members in the country is a woman and for the first time since 2003 the ratio is actually decreasing. It is obvious from the articles that there is a growing awareness of the benefits of diversity – not only as regards gender but aspects like age and ethnicity too. Apparently awareness of business advantages is not enough but I still believe that it is potentially a more effective argument than fairness.
You often hear that gender diversity is beneficial in different ways, but the claim is not always complemented by examples that support it. Since I keep an eye out for cases where the female perspective does make a difference the FT article What is it about girls and IT? caught my attention. It is mostly based on Emma McGrattan, senior vice-president of engineering at Ingres, an open source database company and it presents some claims that are more specific than the ones you usually find. Here is a section of the long article:
Take Ms McGrattan at Ingres: if shown pieces of code, she believes she could guess whether it was written by a man or a woman, and be right "at least 80 per cent of the time".
"In general, code written by women is more straightforward and more practical - it's clear what problem the functions are meant to solve and why. Male programmers are more likely to hide clever tricks behind complicated code and incorporate functions for the sake of it," she says.
These differences, she adds, can be complementary if blended correctly. "Where men and women work on technology projects together, you tend to get a far better, more balanced result," she says. This rule, she adds, applies to numerous projects and tasks that go on within the IT industry.
So is the industry missing out on a valuable "talent bank" of skills by failing to attract more women? Analysts at IT market research company Gartner think so. Last year, Gartner analyst Kathy Harris was lead author on a report that set out to explore the issue, drawing on extensive biological, psychological and behavioural research.
“Our review of the summary literature on gender studies revealed that a small subset of general characteristics of men versus women have been demonstrated so often that they have become de facto," she says.
Women, she found, tend to demonstrate better bilateral brain involvement in listening - in combining left-brain thinking (logic, analysis and a concern for accuracy) with right-brain thinking (aesthetics, feeling and creativity) simultaneously. This ability, she says, is highly prized by the IT sector in roles such as business analyst and team leader.
The article then goes on to describe some of the more well-known and obvious differences. It also presents some views on how this may improve the industry and where the field of IT would have been today if these differences had been acknowledged and embraced earlier. Read it – it is interesting.
When Mercedez-Benz presented their bionic concept car back in 2005 they showed that they were capable of optimizing aerodynamic form in a very unorthodox way; they used the R&D of nature itself and modelled it after the angular but streamlined boxfish.
Even though this example is not new it shows how expertise and open-mindedness can be combined to explore the possibilities of intersectional innovation. Let the images will speak for themselves or follow the link and read more details.
Is the drive for sustainability killing architects´creativity? In this article two architects present two very different analyses on the impact constraints associated with sustainability have on progress in their field. They both have interesting arguments but when I look for examples of intersectional innovation for this blog it is striking that so many brilliant inventions are born from the need to consume less energy.
In a recent post I argue that the influx of Iraqi refugees to Sweden is beneficial to the country in a longer perspective; their knowledge, experience and language skills will be extremely useful as Swedish export industry need to enter into new markets. This aspect of immigration is never discussed since the short-term practical problems with integration dominate the debate about our relatively generous asylum laws.
Anyway, after I wrote that the Swedish Trade Council has identified the Middle East as one of our most important potential export markets. I just wanted to point that out since it supports my argument, doesn’t it?