Meet Patrik Gustavsson
My name is Patrik Gustavsson and I have been leading the realization of the recreational facility at Copenhill – the world’s first combination of a waste-to-energy plant and roof-top mountain park.
The idea was conceived by BIG architects in 2010, and I have since 2011 been sole responsible for the development and execution of the visionary idea. The work has included political stakeholder management, fundraising of the 12M € needed for the project, management of +15 individual building contracts and contractors, ensuring that the users and forthcoming customers got heard in the process, the creation of a public trust we could use as vehicle for the realization, management of creative architects and very nerdish engineers. And lots more! Copenhill opened in 2019 for the public and have won several national and international awards.
Which team and when did you graduate?
I graduated in summer 2000 as part of Team 5. At my team we had students from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Germany.
What have you been doing since you graduated as a Kaospilot?
I have tried various project management roles, often being the person you reached out for, when you had an ambitious idea or bold strategy that needed to be executed. In one way you could say that I have built a career upon this, and I have been so fortunate to have worked at such varied places as the Danish Ministry of Economic and Business Affairs (establishment of MindLab – the first internal innovation laboratory in the central government), the design agency e-types (helping companies to grow and attract customers by using design strategically), being main author and project manager for a program for future hospices in Denmark (funded by Realdania), transforming the states book-keeper (The Danish agency for governmental management, under the ministry of finance) to become more customer centric, starting three companies and lastly, making sure that the brave idea of Copenhill got shaped, crafted and developed into something that actually works.
What is important for you in your job?
It is important for me, that the work I do contain a form of higher meaning. That the results I help create actually makes a difference for others – being the customers, co-workers, the society or even the earth.
What major learnings would you point out from your experience that have shaped you as a leader?
I hope that more than 20 years of professional practitioner have made me humbler towards others experiences and opinions, without losing grip of my own ideas and beliefs. I have learnt that it is very seldom that there exists a bullet-proof recipe for creating results; at least when it comes to working with innovation. And that many of the models and tools you learn at school or are used by corporations, are only second order abstractions of a much more messy and unforeseen reality. The magic happens then, when you dare and success to bridge the gap between the desired strategy, dreams and visions, and people and their everyday life. This calls for an ability to move vertically, and to understand the needs for abstract and simplified models – without believing that the idealized version of the world how you want it to be are the world as it actually is. As a result, you need to engage with others – being it competitors, stakeholders, customer or users and obviously also your co-workers – in order to see what reaction your abstractions create in the meeting with reality.
What is your biggest source for inspiration right now?
Apart from reading novels, I have a YouTube-thing going on at the moment. There is a channel called Veritasium, that uncovers and explains advanced science in an inspiring and enlightening way. Another source of inspiration is the Swedish musician and home-grown mechanical equilibrist Martin Molin, that for more than three years relentlessly have struggled to build a home-made marble machine, that can be used for playing music (do a search for Wintergatan or Marble Machine X). The first being an example of the power of didactics and the latter of solving very complicated problems in a pragmatic way. A must-read for any Kaospilot would in my eyes be the paper “the science of muddling through” written by the political scientist Charles Lindblom back in 1959, that in a beautiful way explains how politics – and innovation – often happens.
What would would be an example of a learning or an experience from your time at Kaospilot that has been important to you?
The weaknesses put aside, I believe that one true strength of the program is that you are put together in a team/group/class, with people very different than yourself. Working with real-life cases, trying to solve complicated matters in a creative way, while dealing with such diverse people, opinions and ideas of the “perfect” working process have taught me a lot. After less than a few months at school, our class were responsible for the teaching at a local school in Aarhus. The teachers where away on a seminar, and we got free hands to plan and execute the education for a whole week. I believe you could question the actual quality the students got out of the week but I remember the final day where all students eagerly gathered and showed the others what they had been up to – from outdoor activities, the creation of a newspaper, a week focused on bringing out the strengths of women and so on.
What is a piece of advice that you would like to give future Kaospilot graduates?
The Kaospilot university have always been extremely good at identifying and tapping into new trends, that very often transcendent and becomes the new norm for the broad masses. This is both for good and bad; the “new economy” in the late 90’s where new, and did influence many corporations, politicians and decision makers, and of course some of the key persons and heavy influencers in the world visited us at Mejlgade 35. The focus on user driven innovation, creative processes and techniques, that now are the norm, are stuff we worked with long before the terms where common in Denmark. The flip-side though, is to see through the current trend, and dissect the “usable” matter from the bull-shit ones. And here the school wasn’t always as good as it should have been, to raise a critical voice as well. Back in 2007 I lived in Melbourne, while my wife did her PhD. By coincidence I stumbled upon a book called “agile project management” and got an epiphany. Many of the tools and techniques, and the management skills described in the book where stuff that we had worked with at the school – without having a “name” for it. I found it kind of funny and crazy, that I had to fly to the other side of the planet to understand one of the bearing principles of what the Kaospilots is all about. So, when you graduate: Stick to your beliefs, and do not try to compete of the theoretical knowledge of a particular subject with others. Use your skills as active listener, thoughtful manager and ability to infuse energy and excitement about the tasks that needs to be solved. The world is facing many challenges right know, and we do need more people to give a hand in the process of creating a better planet.