Gratitude Note from the CEO
Lumen Behavior celebrates the fifth anniversary and it has been a year since Evelina Fredriksson took over as CEO. In this note of appreciation to everyone who has contributed to the firms development she shares the story of how she made some of her most important insights between the power cuts in a Phnom Penh classroom and points out the direction for Lumen Behaviors future.
Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Only 40 years ago, all Cambodian schools were closed and many teachers were murdered. The educational system – from kindergarten through higher education – still suffers from the Pol Pot regime. Despite this history of challenge and turmoil, it was in a university classroom in Phnom Penh that I made some of my most important insights about what it takes to take in new knowledge and act upon it.
Years before my classroom epiphanies in Cambodia, Lumen Behavior was founded as a response to the increasing number of business leaders who asked for information that would help them not only to make profitable decisions but to make good decisions. They knew that their business was part of a wider context and they had an authentic desire to contribute to a brighter future. For the past five years, Lumen Behavior has leveraged our core competencies of research and strategy to support those leaders. Their challenges and opportunities vary greatly but they all benefitted tremendously from learning more about the human context surrounding their value chain. Employees, customers, communities and other stakeholders all have information about what factors will make the business, as well as the society, flourish in the future.
To put it in a nutshell, our mission is to bring forward knowledge about people and their contexts so that organizational leadership can make smart and impactful decisions.
Through the data collection inherent in this work, we’ve interviewed hundreds of executives, academic researchers and experts. We have also engaged everyone from garbage collectors in Cambodia, children freed from bonded labor in India, victims of sexual abuse in Zimbabwe, unaccompanied refugee children in Sweden, elderly in need of care, people with disabilities, and individuals struggling with addiction. We go into every interview with the mindset that every individual—and society as whole—has important things to learn from people in vulnerable situations as well as from the experts. In fact, without listening to and sharing the voices of diverse groups, we cannot make significant leaps forward – both locally and globally.
To take in this new knowledge and act on it with confidence is however often easier said than done even for the bravest executive. It wasn’t until I started teaching that I fully realized the role positive psychology play when it comes to taking leadership over new ideas.
In 2016, I relocated from Sweden to Cambodia and spent my mornings reading and doing research from my home in a village on the eastern bank on the Mekong River. By the time I parked my scooter on campus, my high heels were covered in mud from the flooded streets during the rainy season. In the classroom, the power often cut out, the air conditioning was regularly out of service, and oftentimes half the class was late due to traffic congestion. Despite the lack of physical comforts, this classroom became the highpoint of my day.
I taught several courses over the course of a year, including Academic Research, Information Literacy, Journalistic Principles and Ethics, as well as Non-State Actors in Global Politics. This was my first teaching experience and I found it quite challenging. The main struggle was to get the students to take charge of their own learning processes and to think critically about information – something that was less familiar to students after years of rope learning.
In my search for a solution, a shift happened as I came across positive education and appreciative inquiry. Those concepts shifted my attention from what we lacked to the positive conditions in front of me. I could lean into the support of the school leadership and in dean Dr. Susan Hagadorn I found a mentor and a role model for how to work with passion and perseverance for better education. I also discovered my own strengths using the VIA-character survey and began to apply them in my teaching. My own top strength of gratitude turned out to be a great way of infusing positivity in the classroom. To build on the students’ many strengths was, of course the most important part. One of the most powerful was their drive to collaborate and that tapped into my signature strength of teamwork creating an alignment of strengths that according to the management guru Peter Drucker is the key to overcoming weakness and shape a successful leadership.
The change in my classroom was striking, and it took place thanks to some of the tools and perspectives from positive psychology. I’m tremendously proud to say that I did everything I could to give the students the best possible learning experience. Still I think that the biggest change happened within me. Learning to use my own strengths has sent me on an incredible growth journey and made me ready to take the next step with Lumen Behavior and support more business leaders to step into their zone of impact using the full power of their inherent strengths.
I want to express my deepest gratitude to everyone who has made this journey possible. And I want to welcome you to stay with us on our continued search for the knowledge that will bring us into a brighter future.