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Esa Saarinen

Born July 27, 1953, Hyvinkää.

Master of Arts, 1975, Licentiate of Philosophy, 1976 and Doctor of Philosophy (Theoretical Philosophy), University of Helsinki, 1978
Docent teacher, Theoretical Philosophy, 1978-

Professor, University of Technology, with responsibility for Applied Philosophy and Creative Problem-solving, 2002- (tenured 2008-)

Occasional teacher in Philosophy, Assistant and Senior Assistant, University of Helsinki, 1973–1999
Acting Professor of Theoretical Philosophy, University of Helsinki, 1982, 1992–1993
Research Assistant to Professor Jaakko Hintikka, 1975–1979

Managing Director and Board Member, Muutostehdas Ltd, 1989-
Board Member, Ensto Ltd, 1990-
Chair of the Board, Nostetuotanto Ltd, 1997-

External Member, Nobel Laureate Edmund S. Phelp’s Center on Capitalism and Society, Columbia University, New York, 2011-

Publications and other Academic Activities

Systems Intelligence Research Group, co-director with Professor Raimo P. Hämäläinen

University of Helsinki’s Eino Kaila Prize for University Teaching, 1990
Pro Me Naiset (’We Women’) medal, 1993
Knight of the White Rose of Finland, 1995
Sotainvalidien Veljesliitto (War veterans’ association) medal, 1997
University of Helsinki Bronze Medal, 1998
Iron Cross, Finnish Central Chamber of Commerce, 2003
Team Academician, Jyväskylä University of Applied Science’s Team Academy, 2003
Estonian Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana, Third Class, 2014
Lifetime Award for Positivity, 2014

Written by Esa Saarinen (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by John Calton

Philosophy in the boardroom

Reading Esa Saarinen’s book Erektio Albertinkadulla (‘Erection in Albert Square’), in 1988 Industrialist Ensio Miettinen phoned Esa and suggested collaboration.  The founder of the Ensto Group was clearly impressed by what he read: “The implications of your book for business are revolutionary.”  A partnership emerged, leading to the book Muutostekijä (‘Change Maker’, 1990) and marking a turning point in Saarinen’s attempts to apply philosophy to practical everyday living.

Together with Miettinen, Saarinen set up the company Muutostehdas Oy (‘Change Factory Ltd’), and they began to develop training packages for companies. Key executives such as Nokia’s Jorma Ollila and Matti Alahuhta were quick to spot the importance of Saarinen’s faith in humanity and constructive life philosophy, and the philosopher’s approach went global. Many company executives, such as Marimekko’s Kirsti Paakkanen, have cited Saarinen as a central influence on their thinking.

  • In 2011, Talouselämä (‘Economic life’) a leading weekly magazine on business in Finland, asked 25 representatives of the largest companies which trainers had had the most influence on Finnish leadership. Esa Saarinen and Tero J. Kauppinen were ranked highest.
  • Frank Martela’s article “Johtajuuden taide” (‘The art of leadership’) in Esa Saarinen’s 60th birthday festschrift, based on interviews with top executives. Accessed June 11, 2015.
  • Esa Saarinen’s article “Philosophy for Managers” Accessed June 11, 2015.
Esa Saarinen with Marimekko’s Kirsti Paakkanen.​​
Esa Saarinen with Marimekko’s Kirsti Paakkanen.​​


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