Last year, Sweden again emerged as a leader in the Global Innovation Index. So, what does Sweden know that the rest of the world doesn’t? One possible answer is a single word: lagom.
The concept of lagom has influenced Swedish culture for centuries. But for marketers, lagom provides the key to unlocking innovation through agile project management, team autonomy and a balanced work philosophy.
Lagom is a Swedish word that means not too little, not too much. The traditional etymology of lagom dates back to the Viking practice of sharing a celebratory bowl of mead. As the bowl passed from person to person, each Viking sipped just the right amount. If you drank too much mead from the bowl, there wouldn’t be enough to go around; if you drank too little, you risked not getting your fair share. Over the centuries, Swedes have used lagom to communicate the importance of balance, often in the context of a team or a group of people. With lagom, it’s not about individual performance, it’s about the performance of the team. Everyone plays a role, and when the team achieves its goals, everyone has an equal share in the victory.
Creative agencies offer a great example of the shift to a lagom mentality. Back in the day, the marketing world was populated with Don Draper-esque figures calling the shots from a big corner office. But now, creative agencies are learning that the best campaigns and ideas are team efforts. Superstars are out; nimble teams of people with diverse skill sets are in.
And that’s what lagom is all about: a more agile, more egalitarian and more balanced approach to achieving shared goals.
Autonomous teams are rapidly becoming a catalyst for innovation and agility in creative agencies. As a concept, lagom offers agency leaders and team members a framework for understanding how creative agencies can improve project management and work together in ways that benefit both clients and creative professionals.
Lagom values diverse skill sets
In an agency context, diversity is essential for creativity and adaptability. Teams that emphasize one or two skills simply aren’t effective anymore because they can’t adequately respond to changing conditions. To succeed, agencies need teams that welcome and value a diverse range of skills, the kind of balanced team mentality at the heart of lagom.
Lagom changes how leaders set goals
The days when leaders managed tasks for individuals are over. Now, leaders need to define clear missions and goals for teams. Likewise, leaders must find new ways to evaluate and reward team performance. That can be more challenging than it sounds because many organizations have individual performance reviews and incentives baked into their processes.
Lagom encourages work-life balance
Unfortunately, the creative industry has a reputation for burning out employees. In fact, there’s an entire culture built around pushing people until they eventually flame out and leave the company. By encouraging employees to live a lagom—or balanced life—creative agencies can improve performance and do a much better job attracting and retaining the best talent.
Some businesses model their philosophies on marauding hordes of Vikings, roaming the countryside in search of conquest. But for creative agencies, lagom offers a much more useful Viking concept. By incorporating a sense of balance into project management and the development of autonomous teams of professionals with diverse skill sets, agencies can foster the creativity and agility it takes to succeed in today’s marketing environment.