Collaborate for Growth 2023 September


How to keep your competitive advantage when the world turns upside down?

The world has changed in weeks more than it normally changes in years. This has put all of us under huge pressure to renew, which is why we chose the theme “Rethink Strategy” for this year’s Collaborate for Growth event. Here the key takeaways from the event for how to stay on top of your game.

Check out the video of the event. 

1. Change doesn’t happen on its own

Just as much as technology doesn’t change the world, change doesn’t happen by itself. Enterprising people make things happen in all industries and sectors.

Arun Aggarwal, SVP of Business Technology at Fortum, exemplifies this well with his experiences from turning the global cement-producer Cemex to a digitalized business. This was no small transformation but required re-configuring the whole customer journey from order to delivery. The technological solution is no rocket science, but the transformation would not have been possible without a team that believed in renewing a business that had been done in the same way for decades.

“If we can transform these age-old industries, there’s opportunity in every company to go forward. But it took a CEO brave enough to decide that the bigger and better investment is in transforming the company and getting more out of the assets than just building another plant.” Arun finishes his presentation.

Risto Siilasmaa, Founder and Chairperson of the Board of F-Secure and Ex-chairperson of Nokia, similarly emphasizes the importance of leadership and team building. “A leader without followers is just someone taking a walk.” 

The best leader for transformation projects is one that is committed and takes full ownership of the project. According to Risto this is the core characteristic of an entrepreneurial leader, implying that they will never think “maybe somebody else can do this” or “oh well, if this doesn't work I can just go work somewhere else”. An entrepreneurial leader makes sure the project finishes in a way he can be proud of, and will find solutions even when things are not going that well.

Risto Siilasmaa and Tapio Peltonen discussing entrepreneurial leadership with Rita McGrath participating live from New York.

2. You won’t have all the good ideas

Anyone can change, but no one can change the world alone. You simply can’t have all the ideas and all the expertise. This is why Fortum collaborates a lot with different startups, Arun explains. Startups have very specific expertise and ideas.

Furthermore, ideas need to be elaborated through open dialog. Marjo Miettinen, Chairperson of the Board of Technology Industries of Finland and Ensto, adds. “If I ask you something, you answer with more than what I’ve asked”.  By including different perspectives and opinions, the ideas get refined and grow.

Risto agrees that diversity is a key element of creating good ideas: “When starting an internal startup, staff it from all departments and functions that you have, so that you have a diverse team that knows the mothership [whole company] really well”. 

Large organizations are often predominated by hierarchies and processes. Marjo thinks this ought to be changed because it hinders the creation of open dialog. “Especially in situations of crisis, don’t think about who is allowed to speak with whom. All ideas should get on the table”, she explains.

The new generations entering companies should also not be overlooked. Marjo is very happy to have the third generation of owners in Ensto, people in their 20’s and 30’s: “They are really active and they have a lot of questions, different kinds of questions and networks. We should combine our wisdom with theirs”. 

Arun Aggarwal and Marjo Miettinen discussing the importance of collaboration and diversity.

3. Switch to action-focused mapping

The business environment today asks for less planning and more action. The new playground has shorter, faster cycles of competitive advantage, and you need to constantly reinvent yourself if you want to stay on top.

“We have gone from a world where we assume that stability is the normal thing to a world where we assume that change is the normal thing. This means you need to be able to reconfigure your resources.” 

In her keynote Rita McGrath, strategy and innovation professor at Columbia University, talks about the key ingredients for success in the new playground. These include the ability to not cling on to things for too long, dynamic management of your portfolio and assets, and concrete innovation that gets both incubated and accelerated. “Skip the innovation theater!” she urges.

Most importantly, you need to keep your eyes on the ball. This does not only mean knowing where you are and what you have at the moment but also knowing how the situation might evolve and what actions the different scenarios require from you. Risto explains that people often have the misconception that strategic planning is something very far from actions, which it is not.

“Focus on identifying actions that you can do right now. Not next week, not next month, not next year, right now.”

By focusing on actions you can take now, you will not only speak about agility, but actually be agile. Empower the entrepreneurial leaders in your organization to make sure that changes in the business environment are reacted upon, and give them diverse teams to rethink with. Most importantly, remember to #CollaborateForGrowth 😉 


Interested in how to encourage the entrepreneurial leaders in your organization and learn how to work with startups? Check out our EEXjourney program, the next one kicks off in September 2020!


Collaborate for Growth is a yearly event organized by EEX. With the event, we want to bring together our community of EEX journey alumni, our partners, and others interested in entrepreneurial leadership. This year the event was organized virtually together with Technology Industries of Finland. 

The keynote speakers were Rita McGrath from Columbia University, New York; Arun Aggarwal, SVP of Business Technology at Fortum; Marjo Miettinen, Chairperson of the Board of Technology Industries of Finland and Ensto, and Risto Siilasmaa, Founder and Chairperson of the Board of F-Secure and Ex-chairperson of the Board of Nokia. The event was hosted by Tapio Peltonen, Founder of EEX.

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