Kjell Nordstrom Speaker

Kjell A. Nordström is a leading economist, public speaker and writer who hails from Sweden. Born in 1958, he spent much of his childhood on a small Finnish island, returning to Sweden during the 1960s. After training as an engineer, he studied for a PhD at the Stockholm School of Economics. Nordström was Assistant Professor at the Institute of International Business (IIB) at the Stockholm School of Economics until the mid-2000s. Much of his research work has been focussed on globalisation and strategic management. He has also worked as an advisor and consultant for a range of multinational companies, also working with the UK Government.

Nordström has collaborated with Jonas Ridderstråle on several occasions. Both are frequently booked as public speakers to discuss topics related to strategic management. Together, the pair were ranked as the number one management thinkers in Europe in the 2005 Thinkers 50 and the ninth overall. The two published the acclaimed Funky Business – Talent Makes Capital Dance in 2000. The book has been translated into over 30 languages and was dubbed the “manifesto of what our time requires from business firms and their leaders”. In one survey, it was named the 16th best business book in history. The sequel, Karaoke Capitalism – Management for Mankind was published three years later, with the pair appearing on CNN’s Global Office to discuss the book the following year.

The economist has delivered keynote presentations in more than 100 different countries. He has also been named as one of the top five management experts by Global Gurus and claims we are on the cusp of the swiftest business model transformation since the mid 19th century. Frequently described as a revolutionary, he has a doctoral degree in International Business from the Stockholm School of Economics. His collaboration with Per Schlingmann, Urban Express, describes a silent revolution led by cities and women, with multinational corporations being reworked into multi-urban corporations and mayors becoming as important as prime ministers.

Although he is well-known for his keynote presentations, he regularly runs small workshops with senior executives. An active investor, he leads a popular Shakespeare theatre. UNICEF’s Rudolf H. Messinger has called Nordström “one of the best speakers that the leaders’ team and delegates have ever seen”, with Zurich CEO Dirk Lohmann complimenting him for his “ independent thoughts, confident summaries and tone of optimism”.

Nordström believes that one of the keys to ending poverty is for society to decide what a good life is. He says technology is only valuable if it comes with ideology and values, saying “the market is not a substitute for responsibility”. He has also been described as the “enfant terrible of the new world of business”.

Another key belief of Nordström is the idea that we have never had as many powerful tools that could deliver a better world, with jobs that are fun to carry out and companies that we can genuinely enjoy working for. However, he says these tools alone aren’t enough to deliver this, saying it is up to society and business to make this future a reality.

In Nordström’s view, a leader’s role is to strike the ideal compromise between taking control and letting go of it when necessary. The Stockholm School of Economics’ most prestigious management program, founded by Nordström has attracted some of the most prominent Scandinavian executives. He is viewed as a “rock star thinker” and is well known for his compelling approach to management thinking.

Nordström has been branded “Sweden’s funkiest economist” by Business Insider Nordic. At a 2017 talk, he talked about his future expectations for Stockholm, saying it will experience faster growth than China. He said 600 cities would hold 80% of the world’s population as well as 95% of its GDP by the year 2050. Nordström predicted that Stockholm’s population would reach close to 5 million by 2050, with more than 50 million people living in Tokyo by the same point. He also predicted that the world’s population would take up less than 1.5% of its overall land mass.

In Nordström’s view, large rural spaces will become completely deserted as growing numbers of people gravitate towards cities. Should Nordström’s predictions prove accurate, there will be incredibly little economic activity in rural areas. Though the professor didn’t give his approval to these changes, he advised society to “get used to it – urbanisation is now a fact of life”.

Famed for his provocative style, Nordström’s comments caused a great deal of controversy in Sweden, with some viewing his predictions as simplistic, saying they failed to acknowledge the contribution made by rural areas. He also has talked about living in a world of dominating enterprises that he has dubbed FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google), describing them as monopolists that “interfere” everywhere, operating without competition. However, he expects this to change over the coming years due to factors such as creeping regulation, which he predicts will become much stricter in the near future.

Nordström says the monopolists of the world can only ever be temporary, initially acting as the sole provider of unique services until their technologies are duplicated. He regards this as the fate of all innovations. He also says the lifespan of these monopolists is decreasing all the time, with knowledge spreading quickly and things that were once owned exclusively swiftly being used by everyone.

The pace of change is “10 times” faster than it was during the advent of innovations like the telephone, lightbulb and motor vehicle according to the professor, who also claims today’s technologies are 3000 times more powerful and influential than what came before. Nordström also compares the world to a “huge construction site”, saying that construction will be more active over the next 40 years than it has been during the past 4000 years. He claims the world is currently in the process of deglobalisation, with global companies selling off foreign assets and international investments heading into decline. Artificial intelligence is not regarded as dangerous by Nordström, who claims human error is essential for innovation and that it “can’t deprive us of life”.