Although Sweden is not my homeland, I spent here most of my adult life. I moved here in 1976 and little did I know that the seemingly insignificant village had such an exciting history. The place was quite famous within the country, due to this “strange” phenomenon.
The part of the country where I live is called Småland, Smolandia in Latin and is located in the southern inland of the country. The most typical features are dark woods, mainly firs or spruce, many lakes and red wooden houses. Traditionally this landscape used to be very poor, the earth was meager, stony and miserable and could not provide for a growing population in the past.
If you are familiar with the book The Emigrants by Wilhelm Moberg, you’ve got the picture. This was the part of Sweden from where about 1,3 million people emigrated to the USA between 1846 and 1930.
However, the people who stayed behind developed remarkable endurance and inventiveness.
Of course, they were never afraid of hard work, that’s a given. They had to learn to handle iron in all sorts of ways, including and most importantly, making wire.
Initially, the thread was pulled with the help of horse walks. Since the resource readily available was water, watercourses began to be used Around 1750 as a source of power. In the 19th century, rolled blanks could be obtained from another part of Sweden (Bergslagen.) Meaning the thread maintained a much higher quality than before. Therefore, nails whisks, handles for buckets, woven metal cloth were manufactured with better quality. Yes, everything made of wire!
Here we can start to track the beginning of the phenomenon known as “Gnosjöandan”, the Spirit of Gnosjo. Gnosjo is as well a small community, living and prosperous still today. It was here I used to live and learned what does this phenomenon means practically.
There are many different definitions; even many scientists tried to capture the essence of what this really is about and why just here the entrepreneurial spirit is so strong.
You could say that the Gnosjo spirit today is the attitude of the people and the companies that operate in this region. Philosophy on how to deal with challenges and problems, where you collaborate and strive to develop and make it a little better for everyone continually. An attitude that leads to a committed, entrepreneurial and company-oriented society, where it is perfectly okay to succeed! Ordinary people who do what everyone else should do too. Expressed in many different ways in everyday life. Some of the key factors would be:
- To be motivated by the success of others
- To be prepared to take our initiatives
- To be ambitious and dare to be good
- Being generous and helpful, frugal but never stingy, proud of accomplishments
- To never give up and celebrate growth in the face of adversity
Now can we see some parallels to Compumatrix?
To work together to make things happen, the road from thought to action is not that long? If there is a problem, we will solve it.
Still, in the 70s and 80s, a typical feature would be many small factories and family businesses. Also many kept a machine in the garage or the basement where the family would make an extra income, manufacturing different parts as subcontractors mainly for the automotive industry.
My ex-father-in-law was one of these entrepreneurs. Usually, without formal education, they learnt as they went, being extremely flexible, working very hard and then doing some more.
That period was as well the one of most success and wealth, so many of the manufacturers or company directors would drive a Mercedes that it was jokingly called Gnosjo moped.
The picture changed somewhat when Sweden joined the EU in 1995. Some of the companies are gone, but many found another niche, developed new innovative products, maintaining high quality and competence. Changes will be inevitable, even in the future.
Some of the eldest companies are still in the same family, run by 3rd or 4th generation.
The unemployment in the region is always pretty low, certainly lower than in other parts of the country.
We are talking here about the extended region, including the neighbour villages as well. I worked for a company founded by a grandfather manufacturing washboards. The father added making some simple benches, and the sons expanded into one of the largest wooden garden furniture producers in Scandinavia.
The tradition is also kept alive through different events like an annual festival Water wheel day. Displayed is a living, industrial museum where the water wheels are still spinning, just like in the past. There, you may find even a theatre play written about the phenomenon, and that’s for sure that the vision of the future is very much alive.
There are certainly lessons to be learnt from history, and hopefully, inspiration gained for our community.
Maybe there exists something similar in other parts of the world, looking forward to reading about it in your comments.