Meetings No 17
Development for Survival
Atti Soenarso: “Dubai has taken another approach.”
Cover Story
Per Schlingmann
On knowledge, openness, and attitude.
Knowledge Exchange
Derek Hanekom
Meeting in South Africa.
A Stunning Meeting Place
Cavalli Stud & Wine Farm.
Meetings 3.0
Meetings 3.0
Part two of Jan Rollof’s four-part series.
True Integration
Every fragrance tells a story.
Human Meetings
Form Us With Love
Design and meetings with John Löfgren and Jonas Pettersson.
Africa’s Untapped Meetings Potential
Rick Taylor: “Opportunity oozes!”
Business is Personal
The education programme at IMEX Frankfurt.
The 50 New Rules of Work
Robin Sharma: “For the producer thinking like a leader.”
The Boardroom Worker
Ebba Fåhraeus
On the board of today.
Brain Check
John Axelsson on sleep.
Rare Politicians
Roger Kellerman: Meetings create events, events create meetings.
another cancellation
AIME Cancels 2021 Event
Due To Covid-19 Implications.
revenue will double 2021
Exhibition industry bullish for 2021
covering 457 companies worldwide.

Germany wins EU clearance
for €642m support scheme for tradefair and congress sector.
Lima celebrates its 486th anniversary
and announces the development of a long-term strategy that will revitalise its tourism and business sector.
UNWTO Yesterday
IATA hints
at vaccination requirement to fly internationally.
Fourth Industrial Revolution
MCI transforms
for the digital age.
latest research
Innovation network
“Future Meeting Space”: digital event on 22 February.
Emirates expands its operations
in the Americas in line with increased passenger demand.
IMEX in Frankfurt 2021
is cancelled.
hotel news Sweden
Scandic Arlandastad opens its doors
with Scandinavian XPO international meeting and event center as its neighbors.
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Per Schlingmann
Per Schlingmann has vast experience of Swedish politics and the business world with several management posts and positions of trust behind him. Today he is one of Sweden’s most influential communication and political strategists, and a leading member of the think tank behind the Swedish Moderate Party’s transformation into the New Moderates, who governed the country in a four-party conservative-liberal alliance between 2006 and 2013. He has written three books. One is entitled Urban Express, which he co-authored with business guru Kjell A Nordström, ‘enfant terrible’ of the new business world.

We met up with him in Barcelona – where he was holding a lecture – for a chat about challenges, tacit knowledge and attitude. Per Schlingmann left politics and government office in March 2013 and began writing his book Stå aldrig still (Never Stand Still). He met Kjell A Nordström for the first time at a dinner party and persuaded him to read his first draft.

“It was a golden opportunity. We sat talking all evening. Most people who read a manuscript usually have a few opinions. But not Kjell. He had tons of them, and said: ‘Come home with me’. So I did.”

The first time they met for two hours and the discussion took many twists and turns. It was not long before they began working on a job together. After this, and “quite out of the blue”, as Per Schlingmann put it, they decided to write a book about their newfound shared thoughts. They signed a contract with Bonniers publishing house, and said: “You will get a text from us in six months.” Then they began a work process that Per Schlingmann compares with building Lego bricks. They jotted down their thoughts and musings about contemporary life and, as things progressed, put it all together into a story. One of Kjell A Nordström’s earliest pieces of Lego was the significant part about tacit knowledge, with the emphasis on knowledge and learning, which can also be said to be the starting point for how the two men wove the tapestry they call management theories and organisational issues.

“I’d never before regarded learning as a management instrument, whereas I had pondered over the challenges facing humanity, both in terms of individuals and companies, as well as places and nations. Basically, it’s all about how we should deal with learning in a time when it’s far too easy to just tag along getting a bird’s eye view of the enormous information flows.”

Per Schlingmann believes that we are facing a new phase of globalisation. The first phase was very focused on politically driven development where new countries opened up. Trade has increased, people move around and travel more. He says that we are now in the technologically driven phase. This is more about a common body of knowledge that we share with each other.

“But when everybody relates to the same body of knowledge it can get a bit absurd at times. Nowadays things are beginning to look the same all over the world despite the fact that it is originality that creates intrinsic value.”

During a visit to Mall of Scandinavia, Sweden’s largest shopping mall on the outskirts of Stockholm, he spoke with Unibail Rodamco, the company that runs the mall.

“Their business model is the same wherever they operate, and others are inspired by them. This rather goes against my thesis that originality and daring to break with uniformity creates intrinsic value. There are a few different dimensions to tacit knowledge, that is to say the unwritten, unspoken and hidden vast storehouse of knowledge held by practically every individual. We take this up in our book as well.”

He mentions something that he believes is central to this concept of knowledge, adding with a smile that scientists may argue about the true meaning.

“One aspect is the above-mentioned tacit knowledge, which we prefer to call wild knowledge, based upon feelings, intuition and experiences. I believe one significant factor to be the subset that creates wild knowledge. And that comes from our attitude towards openness. This is, one might say, my conclusion.”

Per Schlingmann’s latest book, Så vinner du kommunikationskriget – med berättelsen som vapen (Winning the communication battle with storytelling as your weapon of war), is on the subject of communication, claiming that man’s worst enemy is his own world view.

“Researchers and psychologists have been in agreement on this for quite some time, but it circles around one’s attitude towards openness, to new learning and to self-assurance.”

To this somewhat more passive knowledge concept he also adds attitude, as in how open one is for new things. When he held a lecture for a human resources team, something happened that he thought was fascinating.

“Just before it was my turn to speak, there was a guy who’d penned a rap song as a CV, which was followed by a long debate on the merits of doing such a thing.”

According to Per Schlingmann, it was not so much that the guy had penned a rap song but the fact that he decided to compile a CV in a different way.

“The guy had enough imagination, openness and attitude to think outside the traditional template. That awareness, or what one might call attitude, is central and is almost knowledge in its own right. I think that’s worth its weight in gold today.”

Another aspect that Per Schlingmann claims to have in his backpack from his political career, is that the harder they worked – especially when in government – the more they noticed that something was becoming increasingly important.

“There’s one task that’s more difficult than all the others, and that’s recruitment. But speak to any CEO you like and they’ll say that recruitment is their greatest headache. In that situation I’d say it’s more important to have the insight to recruit people with diversity. But the person concerned should still be able to fit into the culture that already exists. That skill, the ability to make such recruitments, is probably the most important leadership tool we have today.”

Per Schlingmann says that CEOs appear to be completely absorbed by recruitment issues. If everything works as it should then they should not have to do anything, but there is always a problem somewhere. They focus too much on the skills of the individual. Perhaps a new type of CEO is required.

“One interesting aspect during recruitment is the relationship to the others in the management team. Other thought-provoking things to have emerged include something called articulable knowledge and the changes taking place with regard to the half-life of knowledge where the longevity of knowledge is becoming increasingly shorter.”

As an example he says that just a few years ago, researchers claimed that the knowledge attained by a lawyer or a doctor would last for thirty years, a figure that is now down to five years.

“So it takes five to seven years to learn things that are only useful for five years. Not only is wild knowledge becoming increasingly significant, the longevity of traditional knowledge is getting shorter and shorter. It’s complex. The knowledge levels in society are definitely on the increase. We could put it like this: Theoretical knowledge is no longer sufficient because the necessity level is rising all the time.”

We discussed how society is becoming increasingly complex and how the ever-growing body of knowledge requires an ever-larger bird’s eye view in order to understand the tangles of contexts and relationships. There are also several artificial intelligence services that contribute to the growth of the knowledge body. According to Per Schlingmann, this has led to the increased fragmentation of traditional knowledge and the increased emergence of wild knowledge – and also attitude as in the example of the rap song replacing the traditional CV.

“It’s good to keep that in perspective today when everything tends to look the same just about everywhere. It is people who dare to challenge who will emerge as the victors.”

Prior to the interview, Per Schlingmann read up on the meetings industry. One US report and one from the British Government. He noted that the more he looked at the various factors, the more he recognised his own thoughts in Urban Express.

“The venue is becoming increasingly significant. But the venue is nothing more than a place for holding meetings. A combination of wild knowledge and something we call the digital paradox, i.e. that the value of the digital side of things is increasing. One could call it the new logistics for the creation of economic value, where people interact with each other to create intrinsic value. The biggest challenge lies in what degree the meetings industry manages to grab this by the horns to generate even more meetings.”

We go on to discuss the ways that meetings could share knowledge and develop ideas. We are not a stand-alone industry after all. Per Schlingmann explains that as he has been politically active and is now a free soul, he often finds himself embroiled in discussions about the development of venues. One example is the development of Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city.

“I’ve always felt that Gothenburg has two strengths when it comes to development. One is the post-industrial society with companies like Volvo and SKF. The other is the meetings industry. The interesting thing is, the greatest challenge for the meetings industry – in which the Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre plays a large part – lies in being taken seriously. The meetings industry could be better in showing that it is a part of a highly qualified sector that creates value. With this I don’t mean value with a direct effect like hotel beds, but more meaningful values that are created when people meet. I think this is the industry’s greatest challenge.”

Our discussion returned to whether tacit knowledge and wild knowledge were really one and the same thing. Are they synonyms?

“Well, a little maybe. I’d like to add attitude as knowledge in its own right. When Kjell and I talked about this we became more and more averse to using the term tacit knowledge. So we created our own term that won’t be tamed.”

Another thing he finds fascinating is the role played by data and algorithms. In a way, it comes down to us having traditional problems, and in abundance. Wild knowledge fascinates through people using it to navigate through increasingly intuitive decisions, like an instrument for using data.

“I sometimes liken it to wine. I’ve always been impressed by anyone who knows their wines. It’s an impossibility for most of us considering all the vineyards and grapes in the world. So what do we do? Well, we choose a Chablis or a Rioja. Then we can shut off everything else. You can’t do that in our business.”

Per Schlingmann had more than one answer to the question concerning the consequences of digitalisation. One consequence is the increase in the value of non-digital. Wild knowledge is consequence number two, while the third is a new communication landscape that allows many people to communicate with many other people.

“If you want to reach out you have to make sure that others want to talk about it. You have to create a subject for discussion. The interesting element here are the strong stories.”

Per Schlingmann worked with these issues in the government offices where the task was to enhance Sweden’s image. He wondered how Sweden had such a relatively strong image with such a small population.

“I came to the conclusion that nobody was telling the whole truth about Sweden, just bits and bobs. When you set up a frame around yourself, the anecdotes are strengthened, and I think that’s a challenge in itself.”

At the government offices he also had the opportunity to immerse himself in future perspectives. He maintains that it is the most difficult thing today for leaders and people in general. He uses the word ’foggy’ in as much as the future is impossible to predict.

“We instead gravitate over what is or what was. But all decisions that people make are about the future. You have to dig in to a person’s personal perceptions of the future. What is it that drives a person to get on in life?”

Per Schlingmann says that the most captivating thing is what places us in the future. What are the symbols of the future?

“They’re very clear for the meetings industry. What’s happening now is a trend of trying to find venues that aren’t designed to hold meetings in order to provide an unforgettable experience. That’s what it was like when I first entered politics in 2003. The first thing I asked was how people perceived the future vision of the different parties. Nobody knows what the future holds. You either perceive that you are standing on the brink of the future, in the here and now, holding on, tipping back and forth the whole time, or you have two pairs of Google Goggles.”

Per Schlingmann believes that we have a very positive future ahead of us. He thinks that the Nordic countries have a good potential if they do away with everything cyclical. Looking at the structural side he believes that the greatest challenge for the Nordic region lies in preserving the industrial communities that are more labour-intensive.

“Here I’m referring to vitalisation and robotics, not migration. Naturally, if you have very high work costs then it’s profitable to replace people with robots.”

This means, he says, that somehow we must renew the Swedish and Nordic model in which many people participate.

“In the future I think that a lot of what the meetings industry represents will become a lot more important. Companies that collaborate with each other will also become more influential. I believe we can have a positive vision of the future. Somewhere along the line it feels like an incredible number of people are just standing around dithering. Is it light or is it dark? On one occasion I asked three economists the same question and got three different answers. It’s going up and down, but nothing seems to be happening. This says something about our time. If you want to succeed then you need to think positively.”

Per Schlingmann maintains that the challenge for Sweden lies in the fact that the country is coming out of an engineer-controlled industrial world.

“Other things have started to happen, just look at the creative sector, among it the meetings industry. It feels as though the political world has difficulty adopting the new trends. Industry and Volvo are a lot easier to understand. You only have to listen to Stefan Löfven, the Swedish prime minister. He lives and breathes industry. He’s an industry marketing manager. There’s very little of the new industries in his thoughts. But that’s probably the case with the entire political spectrum. We have to create a clearer picture of what the new industries entail, particularly the meetings industry. We’re back at that gravitation. You hold on to the past. People are needed who dare to think differently, get new ideas and thoughts.”

One thing that inspires Per Schlingmann is popular culture. He says it is interesting because it always has to adapt. He is also inspired by people with lots of imagination.

“Sometimes I’m asked if I have a role model. My honest reply is Swedish author Astrid Lindgren (1907–2002). To create such amazing stories and characters in the media world of her time was simply inspirational.”

The Kneippbyn Resort on the Baltic island of Gotland have reproduced her workplace. Per Schlingmann usually stands looking at it.

“It’s incredibly fascinating. She must have been a wonderfully free-thinking person who could associate with things that nobody else would ever dream of. Kjell A Nordström is also such a person. He draws, writes and thinks and we send texts to each other. It has been very good to systematise this unknown material. It helps to put things into context.”