#16 Pellegrino Riccardi: Doing Business in Scandinavia

Pellegrino Riccardi, a cross-cultural expert, a motivational speaker and an ex-musician, who himself is rooted in three European cultures - born in the UK to an Italian family and has now lived in Norway for over 20 years. He joins us on Future Forecast to share his expert insights on culture.


The differences between the Scandinavian work cultures 

The countries in the Scandinavia region are culturally linked, but the way that business is conducted cannot be lumped together. Yes, there are similarities but each nation has its own distinctive business style (and even on a national level generalizations are not always fair).

Some Scandinavian countries have taken tips from their slightly more southern European counterparts:


  • The Swedes are loosely known as “the Germans of the north” says Pellegrino, they are meticulous planners and welcome feedback from the bottom up, but they may be a tinge too tame?
  • The Danes are loosely known as “the Italians of the north”  they are fast and they listen but tend do their own thing anyway. The Norwegians, on the other hand, cannot be compared as easily, they are trusting and there is good communication from all sides, but they lack decisiveness and responsibility.
  • The Norwegians do not brag, there is actually an anti-bragging code known as Janteloven, which could even hold back business leaders – imagine if “the [airline] pilot is in row 20 controlling from there,” says Pellegrino.



Everyone is different

So, even in one region where nations are often grouped together the differences are apparent. This highlights that each country has its own culture, their “own way of doing things.” Pellegrino uses this definition of culture that strips down the concept into its simplest terms.


There is not one best way of leadership, no one best country

A mix is ideal, and then a diverse mix where people from different backgrounds and cultures are brought together. A diverse diversity will bring about more innovation to lead businesses into a successful future to give a competitive edge. An extensive global study by McKinsey & Company found that a more diverse workplace pays dividends.


Diversity pays

Yes, diversity pays. But, it takes time to understand company’s culture and integrate employees with their own culture and individual experiences. A carefully crafted empowering leadership is needed that manages through curiosity and respect. Pellegrino highlights the meaning of the latter to be “look again” (“re” and “spect”). Respect is key, but employees will have and should hold their own opinions. A good leader will be able to understand motivations and integrate its employees, so people can connect and learn from all levels of the organization.


People need and people create

Pellegrino points out that in the end despite cultural differences all human beings have the same needs; the need for psychological safety, human connection and sharing common goals, which binds people. When people's basic needs are met, and their further needs (fulfillment) are in progress they have more desire to create and innovate.


Let us not forget it is the people that make the company. In this spirit, Pellegrino insightfully explains that a diverse workforce needs a new vision to work towards to suit a dynamic company culture, where employees will build together.


  • Interested to hear more from cross-cultural expert, Pellegrino? Tune in to the Future Forecast episode below where he explores Scandinavian leadership, the importance of business diversity and what successful company culture looks like: