Keeping Skills, Strategy and Structure Unstuck with Katri Harra-Salonen
Have you ever felt boxed in based on your job description? Katri Harra-Salonen, the Chief Digital Officer of Finnair Oyj, shares what she’s learned and unlearned throughout her career of mixing industries, mixing roles, and being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
The Un-comfort Zone
By design, Katri actively puts herself in situations where she has to grow, and calls this being in the Un-comfort Zone. When you put yourself in a place that challenges you, you become energized, you’re able to be curious and explore, and you learn new things, not just about the situation, but about yourself as well.
Katri has gone from the consultancy world into the airline world, which has meant a lot of discomfort, learning, and unlearning. But there is so much that the two worlds – consultancy and airline – can learn from the other, so she believes in building bridges between different kinds of companies and different kinds of thinking. That’s where creativity stems from.
Working with other countries is strategic. But for Katri, there are intangible benefits as well. For example, they work with a lot of exciting Asian companies, which gives them insight into how mobile services are developing, what’s happening in the digital world, and how they can possibly incorporate this into a European country.
For example, many cities in Asia are cashless societies, whereas Europe has been slow to adapt to digital money. But studying Asia, you can see how people behave and what it means, and insights like these can help embrace development.
Don’t put people in boxes. Boxes are for dead people. Embrace growth personally, professionally and as your business strategy regardless of what others believe — Katri Harra-Salonen
Best of Both Worlds
Katri is a third-generation engineer, and at one point in her career, she worked for a design company. How did she bring those two worlds together? Don’t put people in boxes. “Boxes are for dead people.”
You need to be able to change perspectives in order to be creative, so don’t limit yourself to the box that’s been given to you. Just because you’re an engineer by profession, that’s not all you are and all you can do. Thinking you’re locked in does nothing to help you move forward. Katri believes in lifelong learning and unlearning. You want that exchange of disciplines and perspectives.
Collaboration and Building Bridges
Katri shares about an experiment they conducted where the employees themselves designed their office space instead of hiring a design firm. It was done in five batches, and the teams were a mix of people from different departments. People collaborated, learned about how different teams work, and were learning and unlearning at the same time.
Structure follows strategy. And when the strategy changes — as it does, because it needs to be agile — it’s so important that the structures are alive as well. Be aware of the structures you create, and think of them when you think of serving your talent best.
For example: how can you build collaboration into the structure of your organization? Many departments are siloed from one another, but to innovate and move things forward, people need to be able to work together across disciplines.
Structure follows strategy, so as the strategy changes, the structure needs to be alive as well — Katri Harra-Salonen
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