Perhaps the team’s success in creating Sweden's most frequently used mobile payment service is no surprise. Research shows that diversity drives creativity.
On the roof of the HiQ office in central Stockholm twelve people are assembled for a photo. A cold wind is blowing and there is drizzle in the air. Someone jokes about the Swedish winter and a ripple of laughter runs through the others in the group. For some of them, Swedish winters are still something of a novelty.
When everyone in the team is in place there are co-workers from France, Spain, Romania, Russia, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Uganda and Sweden. An ideal combination for creativity, in other words. Most researchers would agree. For example, Professor Richard Florida from the USA says that there is a direct correlation between the proportion of foreign-born members or the number of different nationalities in a group and that group’s creativity index. The more nationalities, the better!
Charlotte Stigenberg, the team’s project leader, recalls that the group was exceptionally exciting to work with. One of the reasons was the cultural diversity. “People from different backgrounds, each with their own way of working and reasoning, create a really dynamic intellectual environment. It’s not just that we come from different countries; we’re also from different age groups and, from an IT industry perspective, there’s also a fairly good gender balance in the group,” she says.
A Stanford University study in the USA shows that groups that consist of people from different backgrounds are better at problem-solving and innovation. It’s hardly surprising, given that people with different experiences have acquired different bodies of knowledge and have different ways of looking at things. The same study shows that the benefits of diversity dominate in knowledge-intensive and creative jobs.
Joel Holmberg, a back-end developer in the HiQ team, is convinced that diversity made a positive contribution to their work. “For the most part, you find yourself working with other people who have grown up in the same surroundings and had the same education. People with similar experiences think in fairly similar ways. In this team, however, there was masses of input from all sorts of sources. More than once, when I had painted myself into a corner, someone came up to me and said ‘What about doing it like this? That’s how we do things where I come from.’ And suddenly, the problem was solved.”
Sudip Kumar Das is a system developer who moved from Kolkata in India to Stockholm in 2014. He says he’s never worked in a better team. “It’s a fantastic group. Our different backgrounds mean that we have different strengths and totally different ways of looking at things. We complement one another very well.”
Charlotte Stigenberg agrees: “Everyone in the team is an individual, of course, with their own personality. You can’t generalise and say that everyone from such and such a country is like this or like that. But peo-ple who have come from the other side of the world to work and live in Sweden are often people with drive. They have made a real contribution to the group. We’ve all learned a lot from one another.”
To tap into the collective know-how and experience in the group and to share this among all the members, competence transfer lunch-es were held from an early stage in the process. On each occasion one team member was given an hour in which to explain how he or she solved a particular problem in the project.
“It was a way of enabling everyone to benefit from each individual’s progress. It helped the entire team to grow,” says Sudip Kumar Das.
He is eager to make clear that there has never been any internal competition within the team. It is a team of equals, each and every one of whom excels in a particular field. They have all always been able to ask one another for help when they have encountered some-thing they don’t understand or can’t do.
“It’s important to feel you can ask questions without being branded as a dimwit. The people in the group are modest, unpretentious types. Every-one has always been willing to help their colleagues,” says Joel Holmberg.
But what about a common language? The Stanford study shows that the advantages of diversity are soon squandered if the members of a team can’t communicate.
“Our working language has been English. The fact that not everyone knows Swedish has never been a problem,” Charlotte says.
“Most team members do want to learn Swedish,” Joel adds. “So we’ve been practising together. Another positive thing about work-ing with so many people who are new to a country is that they are all eager to acquire new friends and to do things together after work. We’ve become almost like a second family for those who have left their friends and relatives behind when they have moved to Sweden.”
Richard Florida is an American professor and the man behind the concept of the “Creative Class”. This is a description of a relatively large group of professionals in society who use creativity as their chief tool. The professor has analysed today’s urban societies and found that cities with a high proportion of residents who belong to the Creative Class are more likely to thrive economically and technologically. This is because the Creative Class produces a tolerant, dynamic environment that attracts other creative individuals, businesses and capital. Professor Florida maintains that the more diverse a society is, not only in terms of nationality and origin, but also in gender and sexual orientation, the better it performs. He advocates an open society based on the “three T’s” – Technology, Talent and Tolerance – and has created his own ranking system that rates cities and areas within cities according to a Bohemian Index, a Gay Index and a Diversity Index. In his creative index list Sweden and Finland are at the top the list.
MOBILE PAYMENT SERVICES THAT HiQ HAS HELPED TO DEVELOP:
SWISH is an app that enables users to simply and securely make financial transactions with one another using their mobile phone. Now Swish can also be used in some shops and online. Today there are more than 4 million Swish users.
S-MOBILE is the first mobile bank in the world to be integrated with a retailer's customer loyalty programme. S-Mobile enables customers to manage their bank transactions at the same time as they are doing their shopping. In 2016 S-Bank is also launching a new IoT mobile refueling service, making it possible to pay for gas at the ABC gas stations with just a few taps on your smartphone. The feature is the first of its kind internationally.
COLLECTOR BETALKOLL is an app that makes it easier for users to pay their bills straight from their mobile phones. All the user needs to do is to take a photograph of the bill. The app then makes sure the bill is paid on time. Bills received by email can be simply imported into the service.
CARPAY is an app from Volvofinans Bank which simplifies all car-related purchases and payments. With a click on their phone, customers can also use the bonus they have earned when they refuel.