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Europe's most innovative company continues to bust leadership myths

Blog overview

Founder of Apple and business icon, Steve Jobs, was famously outspoken. One of his numerous notable quotes was: “I’m as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.”

However, Matts Johansen, CEO of Aker BioMarine, lives by a completely different mantra. He encourages colleagues to say ‘yes’ to new ideas more often, rather than instinctively dismissing them as unrealistic, or too far-fetched.

Speaking as part of the Leader’s Lunch panel event hosted by the Oslo Business Forum,  Matts explained the thinking behind his positive approach.


Dare to say YES

“You have to say ‘yes’. Which, in itself, is somewhat unnatural seeing that humans are naturally prone to say no. That's probably something that stems from the Stone Age, that we were afraid of losing food. We tend to value ‘not losing’ over any potential upside, or success”.

Creating an environment in which an interesting idea is given time and space to grow, to see just what it may become, is key for Matts Johansen.

“As innovative leaders, we need to have a bias towards saying ‘yes’. Often you don’t know if an idea is good enough. Most ideas do not seem great initially, but as they grow, they get better.” 

Matts Johansen, CEO, Aker BioMarine.


With innovation and entrepreneurship as an integral part of Aker BioMarine’s DNA, from how the krill itself is harvested and processed, to the type and products it becomes, this openness and willingness to pursue fresh ideas and new ways of working allows us to continue to explore interesting opportunities.

We might fail, but we need to take that chance to ensure that we continue to innovate, evolve and find new and improved ways to work.

Matts says, “In fact, failures along the way are valuable as they force you to take a good hard look at how you do things – and then change”.


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Keep it relevant

Armed with new ideas and perspectives, the next step is to re-focus and be critical. It sounds obvious, but relevance is the most important factor to consider when bringing an idea forward. However, relevance is often overlooked or not fully considered, resulting in inappropriate or unwanted products, services or solutions.

Matts says, “You can have your focus on speed in the innovation process – but the real question is whether what you are developing is actually relevant for the markets it is being introduced to.”

In order to ensure that our desire for innovation doesn’t lead us too far away from the needs of our customers, we have organised our Marketing- and Research and Development departments in such a way that they are integrated, literally sitting side by side. This ensures that we work together on product development, with a sharp focus on the end user.

Read more: Why wiring innovation and entrepreneurship into our DNA matters

Let’s get engaged

Enabling our colleagues to work autonomously with ideas they believe in is essential for innovative, forward-leaning companies. These values are actively promoted by the leadership of Aker BioMarine, and it is an integral aspect of our corporate culture.

Would you like to work with us? Click here: Trust, transparency, empowerment and freedom


Aker Biomarine Annual Report 2020