Licence to surprise

Blog post

“Congratulations! You will be working at the heart of state-of-the-art science and technology!” This was the comment of one of my friends on Facebook when I announced my new job at VTT. I said thanks but did not thoroughly understand what they meant.

I did not know what to expect when I first entered VTT’s offices in Espoo on a dark and blustery February morning. Mostly I remember looking around for beanbags and table football. Where was the sea view? Where were the health shakes? I soon realised that it was not those things that were the top priority at VTT, but there was something else in the core of the company.

It was the enlightenment and passion that shone on everyone’s face, the genuine joy at having found a recipe for sustainable growth by overcoming global challenges. That passion can be seen and heard in every meeting with a customer, and felt in every laboratory where scientists feverishly look for ways to develop, say, an unbreakable material.

VTT is probably the most read and intelligent organisation that I have ever worked for. There is an inspired professor around every corner, regardless of whether you are walking through the research or the sales department. VTT is a flexible organisation, motivated by challenges, with people who are there to find answers to the biggest questions facing humankind today.

You think I am exaggerating. I am not.

It did not take me long to understand that I was dealing with the most revolutionary scientific discoveries and the most sophisticated technological innovations in the world. I bet you will struggle to name another organisation that has developed a way to produce food from the air, turn waste pulp into a plastics substitute, print electronics on paper or design and develop a camera that can detect skin cancer.

It soon became obvious to me that VTT’s brand did not match the reality. We are many steps ahead, and always have been. I just found an article in which some of our inquisitive and daring top scientists talk about artificial intelligence – in 1985.

There is nothing new to find where everyone else has already been

The best-known explorers have always headed higher, deeper or further away, towards the unknown. Most of the planet has already been scoured, so new discoveries are hard to come by. You need to be clever.

Only nineteen mountaineers in the world have climbed all 14 eight-thousanders on Earth without the use of supplemental oxygen and come back alive. One of them is Finnish. He is alive, because he has most probably turned back more than that 14 times. The same principle is also the key in science. You cannot get to the top or make a breakthrough by luck. You need to work hard and experiment – and you also need to fail.

You need a thorough understanding of your field, you need experience, and you need to study the developments around you and react quickly. You need to know when to turn back or find a different route if the conditions change or you begin to run out of time. Stubbornly pursuing your goal without understanding your competition, changes in circumstances or alternatives can lead to, well, an unhappy ending.

Making history is not easy. But who wants easy?

We do not deliver the obvious but much more

I have noticed that people at VTT are extremely good at challenging. We do not condescend to people but ask them questions and try to understand them and give them advice. Why do we do it? Because we can. Because we have the necessary competence and a deep understanding of science and business. We encourage each other and our customers to see what is around the corner, underneath the surface or beyond the horizon. We do not settle for mediocre or the obvious.

We want our new brand to reflect our way of thinking: we are inquisitive, bold and inspiring, we challenge the way people think and we know what we are doing. “VTT – beyond the obvious”. That is our promise. And our promise can be trusted. Our innovations add value to businesses and promote sustainability on a global level. That is a clear case. But we also want people to ask us what the new element was at a meeting or how our presentation gave them added value. We, too, want to be challenged.

A good friend of mine sets off today towards the Himalayas and Manaslu, the eighth highest mountain in the world. She intends to ascend the majestic peak without supplementary oxygen. She has trained for years, studied, experimented, acclimatised herself, equipped herself with the best gear, failed and succeeded in order to be ready to take on the biggest challenge and highest mountain of her life so far.

Whether the eight-thousander ahead is an obstacle or a challenge depends on how you look at it. The challenge that has been inspiring me during the last few months has been this opportunity to be involved in rebranding an organisation as prestigious and esteemed as VTT, and I am extremely proud to have been a part of the process! What I want to do now is live by this brand every day.

There is an eight-thousander waiting to be conquered for all of us!