Honorary doctors 2018 - A responsible business executive

Submitted on Fri, 08/10/2018 - 12:40
Ilkka Paananen
In 2011, CEO of Supercell Ilkka Paananen gave a talk in the Game Developers Conference.
Photograph: Official GDC

Ilkka Paananen, CEO of the mobile game company Supercell, is a spokesperson for a democratic corporate culture

Faculty of Communication Sciences COMS

Excellence and small teams. The success story in which the game company Supercell became one of the world’s leading operators in its field is unparalleled.

Supercell is the brainchild of the company’s CEO and founder Ilkka Paananen. Paananen will be conferred an honorary doctorate at the University of Tampere in August for his societally significant merits.

The core leadership principles of Paananen’s company are based on an equal and creative corporate culture. Empowering experts and emphasising the know-how of individuals bear fruit while small teams increase efficiency and creativity.

Instead of hierarchical leadership, everyone in the company has an equal role. The employees know what is happening and what the goals are, and they also receive support and feedback.

“Supercell's corporate culture takes elements from the thinking of the generation that is playing,” says Frans Mäyrä, professor of information studies and interactive media at the University of Tampere.

Work to prevent social exclusion

Under the leadership of Paananen, Supercell has become known around the world. According to Mäyrä, the gaming industry is one of the most important sectors among Finnish cultural exports.

Paananen, who has been characterised as one of the most modest business executives, is also a major player in the area of corporate social responsibility.

In 2015, Paananen and his business partner Mikko Kodisoja founded the We Foundation which works to prevent the social inequality and exclusion of children, young people and families. The purpose of the Foundation is to make Finland more equal.

“We Foundation’s aim is to make the success achieved by Supercell and the gaming industry benefit society more widely,” Mäyrä says.

Paananen has become an important role model for young startup entrepreneurs. Paananen and Kodisoja have contributed to several Finnish startups in their role as private investors in the Lifeline Ventures investment fund that is helping new companies to develop.

Dialogue between research and a leading company

The University of Tampere has strong relationship with the gaming industry, and games and game research are prominent in the University’s profile.

At the turn of the millennium, Mäyrä set up the research group called Game Research Lab at the University’s Hypermedia Laboratory. Close co-operation with Nokia, which had a leading role at the time, and various gaming companies has been key right from the start.

“Ilkka Paananen’s previous companies Sumea and Digital Chocolate were our early partners,” Mäyrä mentions.

The game researchers have also cooperated with Supercell. Thus Paananen’s companies have been concretely involved in providing expertise and vision for game research at the University of Tampere.

“We have conducted an intense dialogue on various ideas and research needs. Scientific research and top-level businesses are in a mutually beneficial relationship,” Mäyrä says.
 
Honorary Doctor, CEO Ilkka Paananen will visit the Faculty of Communication Sciences in the autumn term.

Honorary doctors, Faculty of Communication Sciences
Professor Nicholas Couldry, London School of Economics
CEO Ilkka Paananen, Supercell
Actor and Theatre Counsellor Eila Roine