Lessons Learned from Sweden

It’s hard to imagine, but our CAP experience has now been over for a week.  The final days in Stockholm were a blur.  We arrived directly at an event sponsored by the U.S. Embassy, with the remainder of our days filled with site visits (including meeting with the sustainability department at H&M) and cultural tours.  On a Friday morning we presented our findings to our clients at the American Embassy in Stockholm.

And then it was over.  Just like that.

GWSB students with ClimaCheck CEO Klas Bergloff at the ClimaCheck offices in Stockholm

ClimaCheck CEO Klas Bergloff provides an overview of a ClimaCheck installation in Stockholm

Immediately following the CAP, a number of my classmates fanned out across Europe for a few days of leisure.  Planned trips included Portugal, London, Prague, Warsaw, Croatia, the Netherlands, and Norway.  As for myself, my wife met me in Stockholm and we hopped on a boat to Estonia.

From the comfort of my hotel room in Tallinn, I scanned a host of travel photos posted on Facebook.  Through this exercise, I came to appreciate one of the most lasting take-a-ways from my CAP experience – the ability to forge closer bonds with my classmates.  Two weeks on a bus in Scandinavia brought me closer to a fantastic group of talented and interesting individuals.  In the years to come, I expect these relationships to bear fruit personally and professionally.

GWSB students hard at work on the tour bus

Before returning home to the States, my wife and I had one additional night in Stockholm.  Upon hearing of this news, our client at ClimaCheck – Klas Bergloff – offered to take us out for a night on the town.  Our last evening in Stockholm underscored the final two lasting take-a-ways from my CAP experience.

First, I relished the opportunity to interact with Klas both on a professional and personal level.  Not only did Klas impart me with valuable lessons about international businesses, I learned a great about Swedish culture and attitudes through our discussions over beers and plates of herring.  One learns infinitely more about a culture through these types of organic interactions than through organized tours of popular tourist sites.

The final night in Stockholm – with my wife and Klas Bergloff

Second, I came away with a more profound understanding of globalization.  Because of the small domestic market (Sweden has a population of approximately 9 million people); virtually all successful Swedish start-ups must have plans to expand to international markets.  One of Klas’ business partners told me “we must be global from day one.”  This represents a stark contrast from the thinking of many smaller firms in the United States.

With about 12 hours left in Europe before our return home, my wife and I met Klas at the Photography Museum in Stockholm.  Klas scored tickets to the grand opening of a new exhibit by Sally Mann.  Monique and I couldn’t help but appreciate the irony.  There we were in Sweden – 4,000 miles from our home in Capitol Hill – to see a photography exhibit of an artist from Virginia.

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