Meet Max Parknäs
Please introduce yourself (who are you and what do you do in your life)
My name is Max and I’m constantly trying to define and live my dreams, small as well as big, with various success, together with my KaosPilot wing-woman Ida Tinning, my son Kai (4) and daughter Veva Lo (2).
Which team and when did you graduate?
I spring from team 16 and graduated in 2012?!
What have you been doing since you graduated as a Kaospilot?
Following the Kaospilots I moved to Copenhagen together with Ida and spent a year or two adjusting from the empowering experience from dreaming big at the Kaospilots and figuring out how to do the same “in real life”. A period with mixed Kaospilot-facilitation jobs, consultancy assignments for different NGOs, unemployment courses and efforts to introduce a catapult chair for elderly people in Denmark. Having always wanted to work with international development I saw the need to complement the useful skills acquired at the Kaospilot with some more theory and jumped on a masters in Global Studies where I focused on innovation in development. One year into my studies I was recruited back to a Swedish impact investor where I did my Kaospilot internship and worked in Zanibar for a year building up a waste-management company that is still alive n’ kickin. The most fun work I had! Simultaneously while working I finished my degree and wrote a thesis on how to develop financial instruments to promote innovation in a development context. At that point I figured that I wanted to find ways to promote more proactive and systemic change. As such I saw the need to peep into the world of financiers and got a job at the Swedish Innovation Agency (Vinnova) where I spent a lot of years working to promote and finance innovation, mainly in the fields of social, challenge-driven and norm-critical innovation. Never anticipated that I would work in a governmental agency and here I was, super-bureaucrat Max. Luckily Vinnova has already been infiltrated by two rockstar Kaospilots (Anna Edwall & Klara Adolphson) who paved the way for a really creative and fun work-environment.
Gradually though, more of my doing has been in private life, where me and Ida found a plot in the Swedish Archipelago and built a house, gotten two kids and trying to figure out what is important for us in life at the time being. During COVID we moved out to this island and took our kids to preschool by boat everyday and spent loads of time in nature. The best and most privileged way to spend a pandemic..
Spending time away from the city also awoke alternative dreams of how to live life. Reality calling we moved back to the city though and compensated with getting new jobs and I finally landed my “dream-job” (from 10 years back) working with financing global investment funds to reduce poverty, contribute to sustainable development and mobilize private capital into development contexts. Never had more power and budget to pursue the “good cause” but really by this point I’m starting to feel that I am to far up the ladder and spending my days doing paperwork and telling others what to do…
Back to the alternative dreams me and Ida now sold our island retreat to enable us to take a leap at a different life, imagining a time in the near future where we are able to pace down for a year and leave time to explore new ways of living life, that balances that of being a parent with a meaningful occupation. Let’s see how that turns out.
What is important for you in your job?
A guiding question for myself in terms of jobs has always been; “Where can I make the most difference for the world”. Cheesy I know. It has led me to positions where I have had a lot of potential to promote large scale change. Part of me however really values shorter feedback loops and I think its important for me to balance my somewhat abstract work, often far away from where the change actually happens, with “hobbies” that allows for more immediate problemsolving, such as building a house on a remote island. Creativity is another key aspect, whereas working as a governmental investor might seem the complete opposite it really challenged me to be creative on a more strategic level.
Then it is essential for me to be part of teams where we have a lot of fun that tends to come with good results. Working in bigger and sometimes hierarchical organization trust is really key, opening up for creativity and ownership.
What major learnings would you point out from your experience that have shaped you as a leader?
I’ve learned that leadership can be practiced in many ways and you don’t always need to be in charge to help a group advance. As process- and group-optimizing KPs I think that we all have acquired skills needed to identify what is needed to get a group functional and the task done. Being prestigeless and assisting other leaders to lead is really a good way to practice leadership..
It struck me that being mid 30s, with kids, life is really about making the present worth living. I’m working 90% and got every other friday free to do what I like. Best thing I ever done in my professional life
What is your biggest source for inspiration right now?
Tough question. The world is going through some really rough times and I really struggle to find hope and inspiration for the first time in my life.
On a personal level an old cheesy quote that stuck with me and guided me this year is “life is what happens while you´re busy making plans”. It struck me that being mid 30s, with kids, life is really about making the present worth living. I’m working 90% and got every other friday free to do what I like. Best thing I ever done in my professional life!
On a professional level I would say I’m inspired Mariana Mazzucato and the “new” wave within the EU innovation system trying to “innovate the way we innovate” through mission-oriented innovation that opens up for transformational systemic change needed to achieve the SDGs.
What would be an example of a learning or an experience from your time at Kaospilot that has been important to you?
Really arranging the parties was so much more than just throwing great and extravagant parties. They worked as perfect sandboxes for our team to apply everything we learned in practice: from creativity to logistics, project management and business (Kaospilot Team16 made $$$). The process of taking a team of stubborn individuals to agree on a party-theme makes a decision in a group of bureaucrats a walk in the park.
I’m getting old so really I should be asking the next generation of Kaospilots for advice
What is a piece of advice that you would like to give future Kaospilot graduates?
I’m getting old so really I should be asking the next generation of Kaospilots for advice. That said, I really think all Kaospilots should trust in themselves that they really have something to offer. Out there in professional life there is still so much need for creative, brave change agents. None the less courageous leaders to challenge the status quo! There are so many organizations that need to be infiltrated by individuals with big hearts and skills to help others navigate the complexity that today’s challenges pose. Another advice is to be patient and persistent, there is no perfect school in the world that steers you into your dream occupation straight away. It’s most probably a bumpy road where the destination is not always obvious.