A Man Who Practices What He Preaches – Ville Tolvanen, Pioneer of Modern Work

Ville Tolvanen, the founder of Digitalist Network, is a strategist and consultant, who loves talking more than anything else:

“Talking is a definite action. It precedes doing and is a prerequisite for change to occur. Obviously, if people don’t talk, there won’t be any changes. We can explore fears and skill levels through talking, which then helps us to understand our targets.”

Tolvanen tries to do as he says; his aim is to stir up new ideas and debate, to be an expert while achieving results and being open.

Digitalization Will Not Save Us

“The biggest hindrance for the progress of digitalization is that it’s considered a savior and an outside resource, though in reality it’s a destructive force,” says Tolvanen. He explains how digitalization has so far disrupted the music industry, consumer behavior and media business.

“It’ll change the game by letting information roam free. We should think how information and values are reorganized in a digital environment.”

From a Hindrance to a Progressive Force

Consultant Tolvanen has three tools that he says could be used as productive power for digitalization. The most important one, ‘the zero meeting’, starts from scratch and encourages us to go back to basics – any question under consideration is scrutinized as if it had only been thought of that day.

“It’s great that the result is always something completely different from the prevalent idea.”

Things Will Get Better

Tolvanen’s second tool is an image of a perfect world.

“We draw up a three-dimensional vision of where a community is going. Nobody agrees to change unless they know what they should become.”

“In Finland, the majority of people seems to think that everything will come to an end: shops, jobs and media. Life will be over and nothing will replace it. But if we take a look at how things were 300 years ago, we can see that the world has always emerged as a better place! We are healthier, live longer and we have more free time, and there is less violence and less pollution. That’s why we can discuss what the situation should be like. What is our aim? When leaders internalize this vision, the change can happen more quickly.”

Ville Tolvanen offers a road map as the third tool between the ‘zero meeting’ and the perfect world: what is required for the change to take place?

“Very few companies have given a thought of how digitalization will change their work community.”

Work plus Freedom

It will be essential for us to understand that in future we will be moving from an industrial society to one made of individuals and networks. Digitalization could liberate and disconnect work from a specific time and place, allowing people to make their own choices.

“We should let people decide how to work: let them decide where, how and when to work. The employer only needs to know when a job will get ready.”

For Ville Tolvanen, working hours and workplaces are artificial concepts, and he sees little connection between productivity and everyone being at the office at the same time.

“I like to write in the early hours of the morning. It’s a crazy idea that we become productive at 9 a.m. Productivity comes from motivation!”

Tolvanen thinks that a good managerial team is a perk. A good manager recognizes what can be done, what happens if something is not done, and is able to estimate when the job is completed.

“We have to create conditions where people can work in peace and be happy.”

The Power of Networks

“I think ‘social media’ is a misnomer; we should call it the internet of people instead as it refers to individuals being part of various networks.”

According to Tolvanen, those companies that understand their role as part of a network will do well. In a network-like frame of reference, investors, partners and employees form an entity – ‘us’.  An operation where everyone is open and the client is involved in the development process is true collaboration. It is a communal culture and not just simply communication.

In order to achieve results, productivity and happiness, a modern manager should redefine what work is. Tolvanen says that the process of developing a company culture should include staff, third parties and various stakeholders, and those involved should discuss how work could be better for everyone.

“All success stories are based on strong company cultures, and their company values are obvious in their employees and products. There isn’t any need to highlight those values any more.”

Virtual Ville

Ville Tolvanen hopes to be doing the same job in ten years’ time, but he would like to work as a hologram from his summer house.

“My idea is to end up working from the pier on the lake. I’m sure that over our careers, we’ll see a dramatic drop in the importance of place and time. There will be fewer meetings yet we’ll communicate more when we realize that we don’t need to meet face to face to share information. Meetings will be of better quality, and we can focus on being part of it all.”