Sweden, a consensus seeking society

If you come to Sweden to study, this is a feature you would definitely notice. Swedes seek consensus. If it is a teacher deciding about the structuring the class or formation of groups, or if it’s a group member wondering about making edits on a document, be prepared to be involved in lively, open discussions. I was visiting Umeå in late autumn and our tour guide told us that consensus was reached about building a mall in the center of the city. I sounded really strange to me so I prodded further and the tour guide explained that Umeå prides itself on being a radical and dynamic city where all decisions relating to the city are widely discussed in the public. After a short chat with the tour guide I started noticing this feature all around me.

The thing with group work is that very different kinds of people work together, there are people who decide quickly and ‘just get it done’ while others want to talk and discuss everything and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Though both methods have their strengths and weaknesses, I have found the ‘discussing’ or the consensus seeking way a more long term approach. I tend to be flexible about this, if the project is a short term thing, then I do not go too much for consensus, for example. The Financial Times article argues for the long-term strengths of a consensus seeking society.

The good thing about the Swedes I have interacted with are that they are super patient and always willing to talk and discuss things, both to explain and understand. Here is another straightforward article that talks about consensus while doing business in Sweden.

I love that my views and opinions matter. I really enjoy it that we have discussions in the class about the class, about the process and things like that. That our feedback is important for the program and the course. I mean, it should be this way, right? These are things I have started taking for granted now, and this is just a reminder to myself how much I value it.

Picture by Lasse Lychnell, one of the professors in our program.

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  • Cori • 17 Mar 2015 at 3.35 pm Reply

    Hi Raghuraman!

    I’m interested in the MSc in Economics program at SSE. However, my background in economics has mainly been in social economics rather than business economics. Going to SSE would be a big “jump” for me – going from a more research-oriented university to a world-class business school.

    I found your blog post on Swedish consensus-based decision-making very interesting! Do you think this focus on “consensus” plays into the student dynamics at SSE? I always thought of business students as being a bit competitive with each other, but perhaps SSE (and other business schools in Scandinavia) are different? Perhaps less competitive and more collaborative?

    I’d love to here your thoughts on this. Thanks!

    • Raghuraman
      Raghuraman Rangarajan • 17 Mar 2015 at 9.41 pm Reply

      Hey Cori,

      Some of my best friends are studying economics at SSE. If you are coming from a social economics background, I feel you will enjoy the company here. The economics program has some of the coolest people in the school. Cool in the sense of having different perspectives on life compared to ‘normal’ business students. I def feel consensus plays a real role in schools too. Its super flat, the hierarchy. One can go and talk to the director if you have problems or hang out with a teacher for beers after class. Also, students have a huuuge influence on the school. Read more about SASSE, the student union if you wanna know more.

      The environment is reaaallyy collaborative. I touched upon it here : http://blogs.studyinsweden.se/2014/10/19/first-day-in-school/

      Hope it helps!

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