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EUROPE'S RISING SLOW DOWN CULTURE

By Erik the Swede 20 April 2007

Reflections on how 18 years of slowing down has improved everything.

It's been 18 years since I joined Volvo, a Swedish company. Working for them has proven to be an interesting experience. Any project here takes two years to be finalised, even if the idea is simple and brilliant. It's a rule. Globalised processes have forced (all over the world) a general sense of searching for immediate results. Therefore, we have come to possess a need to see immediate results. This contrasts greatly with the slow movements of the Swedish. They, on the other hand, debate, debate, debate, hold x quantity of meetings and work with a slowdown scheme. At the end, this always yields better results.

Volvo, Escania, Ericsson, Electrolux, and Nokia are some of Sweden's renowned companies. The first time I was in Sweden, one of my colleagues picked me up at the hotel every morning. It was September, and a bit cold and snowy. We would arrive early at the company; he would park far away from the entrance. The first day, I didn't say anything, neither the second or third. One morning I asked, "Do you have a fixed parking space? I've noticed we park far from the entrance even when there are no other cars in the lot." To which he replied, "Since we're here early we'll have time to walk, and whoever gets in late will be late and need a place closer to the door. Don't you think?" Imagine my face.

Nowadays, there's a movement in Europe named Slow Food. This movement establishes that people should eat and drink slowly, with enough time to taste their food, spend time with their family, friends, without rushing. Slow Food is against its counterpart: the spirit of Fast Food and what it stands for as a lifestyle. Slow Food is the basis for a bigger movement called Slow Europe, as mentioned by Business Week.

Basically, the movement questions the sense of "hurry" and "craziness" generated by globalisation, fuelled by the desire of "having in quantity" (life status) versus "having with quality", "life quality" or the "quality of being". French people, even though they work 35 hours per week, are more productive than Americans or British. Germans have established 28.8 hour workweeks and have seen their productivity rise 20%. This slow attitude has brought forth the US's attention, the very pupils of the fast and the "do it now!" culture.

This no-rush attitude doesn't represent doing less or having a lower productivity. It means working and doing things with greater quality, productivity, perfection, with attention to detail and less stress. It means re-establishing family values, friends, free and leisure time; taking the "now", present and concrete, versus the "global", undefined and anonymous. It means taking humans' essential values, the simplicity of living. It stands for a less coercive work environment, happier, lighter and more productive places where humans enjoy doing what they know best to do.

It's time to stop and think about how companies need to develop serious quality with a no-rush attitude that will increase productivity and the quality of products and services, without losing the essence of spirit. Many of us live our lives running behind time, but we only reach it when we die of a heart attack or in a car accident rushing to be on time. Others are so anxious of living the future that they forget to live the present, which is the only time that truly exists.

The difference lies in what each one of us does with it. We need to live each moment. As John Lennon said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans". Congratulations for reading till the end of this message. There are many who will have stopped in the middle so as not to waste time in this globalized world.