Valtteri Tuominen - Henley Business School Finland

Back to school. But why, oh why?

“Never again!” I realised that “never” was too strong of a word. But not for a while, that was for sure.

I had just got my Aalto University PhD completed after a ten-year struggle. One year earlier, I had finalised my Henley Executive MBA after a four-year-journey. All this studying on top of a challenging career in international technology sales. I was exhausted.

Now it’s time to focus on other things like building my just-founded company. No school for a while.

Barely a year had passed when I found myself from an info session held at Henley Business School Finland. Couple of days after I had signed the paperwork. I was about to dive into my fourth university degree. “Coaching and Behavioural Change”. Whatever that meant…

I asked myself why did I go back to school again?

As a beginning entrepreneur, there’s no extra time nor there is extra money. This degree requires investing both. Why did I jump in? Why again? Why so soon?

As I’ve learned so far in my coaching studies, life isn’t about answers. It’s about questions. It’s about exploring question and reflecting what thoughts they might raise.

I had figured out some proper rational answers: “If my company goes belly-up, I have a back-up profession”. “I can do extra business with coaching services”. “This looks good on my CV”.

Answering is an act of aggression. When you give an answer, you stop pursuing for further understanding. You state your answer and close the case. And you won’t find the really interesting stuff.

Stop answering but start asking questions

So, I stopped answering my own questions. Instead, I started asking new questions that came to my mind.  “What is the link between my previous studies and this one? Is there some common nominator?”

My PhD research had identified three fears that prevented customers from buying new technology. My MBA degree work focused on core values and organisational culture. So, both my technology and business studies had resulted in focusing on how our mind functions.

This raised a follow-up question: “How much do I need to understand about how our mind works in order to really understand business and technology? Even though a tech-PhD and an MBA from a distinguished business school, how much do I really understand about my field?”

Reflection as part of the journey

I started to reflect on times when we were selling technology in Germany. I reflected on times when we were recruiting in the USA. I reflected on experiences about solving complex technical problems in China.

I asked myself: “In those moments, if I had a crystal ball that could have given me one piece of information I didn’t have, what would have that piece of information been?”

I would have wanted to understand how other people saw the situation. What was the buyer afraid deep down? What was the recruit’s true motivation? What was the real people-issue behind the apparent technical problem?

Understanding myself better

By exploring these questions and a bunch more, I started to see a bit bigger picture of myself. The challenges and difficulties I had faced started to make more sense to me. I still didn’t have a rational answer though on “why a beginning entrepreneur invests time and money in a new university degree in the middle of all the hustle.”

Instead, I understood myself better. I started to understand what I actually had learned in my previous studies. I realised that the motivation for my interest in psychology and human mind wasn’t driven by a business logic. It was driven by my authentic curiosity. And for me, that’s the biggest motivation.

And perhaps, just perhaps, learning to understand some of the great secrets of our mind will also help the business.

One thing is almost sure. This will become a great question worth exploring!

Valtteri made a 10-year career in the global automotive industry, growing from a technical specialist to a CEO. Global tech business and tough customers like BMW taught some invaluable lessons. Valtteri is the only PhD in Finland with the research question “How to sell technology?”. Today, his company Nordic Business Lab specialises in building new service business from data. Customers are small and medium sized technology companies who are looking to grow their business.

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