Angela Spang

Swedish born entrepreneur and business leader with an exceptional talent to form strong and winning teams.

By myself, in the shower.

I cried this morning. By myself, in the shower. I have done that for several days….

I know, I know….I have everything. I am a successful business owner, happily married with 2 amazing kids. I am a Queens Award winner, I have a great team, I am being appointed as a Buckinghamshire Swan Envoy next week. I have everything I could have ever dreamed of. It looks so easy, so amazing.

But I am heartbroken. I am so sad for the little girl who was brutally ripped from me. I am sad for the damage she sustained and the damage she imposed on others. I am sad for the years lost, and for the things she never got to experience. I am sad for the people she lost, and for the people she never found.

As I read my memoir that has just been delivered (only a few pages at a time because that’s all I can manage) I start to come to terms with my past.
I wrote the book to explain, and to say I’m sorry to everyone I hurt and to everyone I left behind in my quest to achieve, be seen and in my attempt to make up for the years that were stolen.

I wrote it to do clarify and apologize, but also to bring hope.

Remember; It is NOT where you come from; what matters most is where you are going. And only YOU will decide that.

With love/
Angela

The eBook version is here!

“I have such happy memories of being at the beach, by the water, I can’t help but smile when I reflect on it. And I find these memories make me laugh because of the pure joy that surrounds them. Our walks back from the beach, when we would finally call it a day, when it was finally time to leave and head back to our holiday home, would probably take 45 minutes. It’s probably more of a seven or eight minute walk (I have since tried this as an adult) but with three…”

My book is here!

It isn’t all happy, but I hope it will make you smile at times.

Let me know what you think!

“Creativity gets killed”

close up of human hand

When I consider all the organizations I have studied and worked with over the past 22 years, there can be no doubt: creativity gets killed much more often than it gets supported. For the most part, this isn’t because managers have a vendetta against creativity. On the contrary, most believe in the value of new and useful ideas. However, creativity is undermined unintentionally every day in work environments that were established—for entirely good reasons—to maximize business imperatives such as coordination, productivity, and control. This is even more true in the world of medicine; “untested” is a bad thing.

Surgeons cannot be expected to ignore the need for innovation and testing new things, of course. But in working healthcare systems built on established guidelines, safety first and indeed….adhering to the code of Do No Harm, we have designed organizations that systematically crush creativity.

What Is Business Creativity?

We tend to associate creativity with the arts and to think of it as the expression of highly original ideas. Think of how Pablo Picasso reinvented the conventions of painting or how William Faulkner redefined fiction. In business, originality isn’t enough. To be creative, an idea must also be appropriate—useful and actionable. It must somehow influence the way business gets done—by improving a product, for instance, or by opening up a new way to approach a process.

The associations made between creativity and artistic originality often lead to confusion about the appropriate place of creativity in business organizations. In meetings, I’ve asked other leaders if there is any place they don’t want creativity in their companies. About 80% of the time, they answer, “Accounting.” Creativity, we seem to believe, belongs just in marketing and R&D.

Building an innovation system can yield improvement ideas that reshape health care practices, but this rarely happen seamlessly. The following excerpt from the IHI Innovation System white paper presents five types of challenges inherent in most innovation systems and what IHI has learned about overcoming them.

5 Innovation Challenges and Tips for Overcoming Them (ihi.org)

Challenge Creates Innovation

Personally, I have a great example where the two worlds (my creativity and lust for problem solving vs the “we have always done it like this”) meet. Go back a couple of years, and enter St Mary’s Hospital in London, an old building that looks like it has secret corridors, hidden passages and at least 3 floors that nobody can seem to access. The staff room is a small room with a floor that leans to the east, with a view over London’s rooftops and chimneys. The only way I can ever find it (yet to this day) is through the back entrance spiral stone staircase, up, up, up…

Standing behind a surgeon learning about the challenges they meet on a daily basis (every patient is unique) is an option to not just learn, but also to innovate. For me, it is a unique situation: I am the only Medtech CEO in the world that has the background of a trained ballerina combined with a women’s health education learning  surgical  game changer TVT from the inventor Ulf Ulmsten himself. I watch how surgeons move, I understand anatomy in a different way, and I can mimic movements down to individual muscles. I am trained to memorize patterns, flow and rhythm. I physically flinch when a move looks awkward or strenuous, and I instinctively know how to fix it.

Watching a surgeon getting frustrated by trying to correctly position the frame and tighten a screw on an old blue plastic retractor sparked one of those moments in me, and I was trying to lighten the mood in the room by commenting: “Not a great design, that blue thing!” I was rewarded with a grin from the scrub nurse, and a smile from the surgeon, who quickly replied: “Let me guess, you make a better one?!”

“Not yet, but I bet I can!”

Nothing makes me more interested to do something than someone telling me I probably can’t. I have a long list of things I have done, purely because of a challenge. Fast forward a couple of years, and Galaxy II is now a global brand, sold in over 40 countries in a range of surgeries. We have launched the worlds first ever light attachment (again a challenge I needed to solve, this time from surgeons doing charity work in Africa and needing better intra cavity light) and won The Queens Award for Innovation in 2021.

Expertise and creative thinking are an individual’s raw materials—his or her natural resources, if you will. But a third factor—motivation—determines what people will actually do. The scientist can have outstanding educational credentials and a great facility in generating new perspectives to old problems. But if she lacks the motivation to do a particular job, she simply won’t do it; her expertise and creative thinking will either go untapped or be applied to something else. Read more about Creativity in this Harvard Business Review Article: How to Kill Creativity (hbr.org)

“Fans jävla förbannade skitstövel!”

yellow tassel

If I am REALLY angry, I always curse in Swedish.

Despite having lived and spoken English for over 15 years now (I dream and think in English, apart from when I talk about memories and things that are “stored” in Swedish), I swear in Swedish.

Profanity is experiencing a renaissance right now. A Profanaissance, if you will. There’s more swearing on television than ever before, and even cursing at work is considered acceptable in a lot of places these days (assuming you’re not swearing at someone). Increasingly they’re an integral part of almost everyone’s language.

Part of the reason for the increase in cussing is that psychologists keep finding benefits to swearing. An F-bomb can help you tolerate the pain you feel when you stub your toe. Repeating curse words when you’re performing an athletic feat can make you stronger. People who swear more even seem to lie less. Basically, swearing makes you a powerful human incapable of deception(!). It’s like a superpower!

Though swearing has a number of advantages, for me, doing it in English is disappointingly unsatisfying: since it is not my native tongue, it just doesn’t do the trick. Why? In part, the reason is obvious: if you weren’t taught growing up that a word is bad, then it won’t seem that bad to you. It’s like when a child runs around screaming the F-word because they recently learned it. They won’t realize why their parents are looking on in horror until they’re scolded. It is MUCH easier for me to use REALLY bad language in English than it ever can be using the equivalent in Swedish.

Studying Our Swearing Habits

Expletives seem to hold a very special place in the human mind. In one study, a patient had a severe case of aphasia — brain damage that causes someone to have difficulty with language — but he still had the ability to swear.

Another study looked specifically at swearing in other languages. The researchers had Polish students translate texts that were filled with curse words, both general swear words and ethnic slurs, to see how they would translate them. When they translated from English into their native Polish, they tended to tone down how offensive the words were. When the students translated in the other direction, they scaled their offensiveness up. If this teaches us anything, it’s that it may be ideal to avoid ethnic slurs in a new language (if that wasn’t already obvious).

I have a lust for dessert!

Straight translations can be both entertaining and dangerous… For example, one of the German equivalents of saying “I want to have dessert” would be Ich habe Lust auf Nachtisch, which literally translates back to “I have lust for dessert.” If a German were to say this to you in English, you might be a bit weirded out because “lust” has certain… connotations. Alternatively, the dessert may be of a different kind that you originally had in mind!

I have learnt to be more careful with swearing in other languages. If you’ve only learned a word by reading it, you might think it’s something light-hearted when it’s actually not. The French love to use “fuck” liberally because there’s some emotional distance there, which can cause English-speakers to recoil. I am always VERY entertained by watching the interactions!

Even within a language, there can be differences in swearing culture. The British use “cunt” with wild abandon, whereas in the United States, it is probably the most taboo word. I personally find it VERY offensive.  

Swear words are culturally constructed, so to use them well, we need to learn about the culture that uses them.

Or should we just stop swearing in every language to stay safe? But fy fan, how boring would THAT be?!

What gaming teaches kids (better than any school or parents ever could)

led game controller on table

screen time is dangerous”

I think it is time we put this one to bed.

Here is a list of things that I believe gaming teaches kids:

  • If you are facing new challenges and obstacles, then you’re going the right way.
  • No one blames you if you have to check the map.
  • Always come prepared.
  • Everyone is worth talking to.
  • Even if you don’t get money for something, you always get experience.
  • The places that are hardest to get to always have the best rewards.
  • The best way to become someones friend is to actually talk to them.
  • If you want to be someones friend faster, also give them food.
  • Don’t hold on to too much crap. You’ll fill up your inventory.
  • Don’t be deterred if a challenge was too much for you. go back, level up, increase your skill and try again.
  • You don’t learn anything if you get someone else to do it for you.
  • Don’t feel like you have to plough through the main story. The best content is sometimes in the side quests.
  • If you tried and failed 30 times, you probably missing something. Go back and look around.
  • Never judge someone skills solely on their achievements. You don’t know how they got them.
  • When you succeed after multiple failures you feel so much more accomplished.
  • Take full advantage of character customization.
  • Decisions rarely only affect you. Please choose wisely.
led game controller on table

How and Why I lecture people

I lecture people in university… which is hilarious, given that my own experience of school was a tad….rocky. Hehe.

BNU Business and Law School focus on business and law related teaching, research and professional programmes for students and industry

BNU Business and Law School focus on business and law related teaching, research and professional programmes for students and industry. I have been a guest lecturer for the last 3 years, and I love seeing the students “wake up” from when they first slouch in, slump down and lean back with crossed arms….. to in the end when they are engaged, asking LOADS of questions , smiling and nodding.

I tell them that from now on, they are on their own. They ALONE are responsible for what happens to them. They are IN CHARGE of where they are going from here, and nobody will spoon feed them anything anymore. Gone are the days of “group assignments” and “class tests”.

“From now on….you are flying solo.”

Some of them love it. Some look concerned. Some terrified. But ALL of them think about what I said.

And I LOVE watching the growing realisation of being in charge of your own future.

What awards mean to me

Awards mean nothing if you have to celebrate alone

Allergan Award For Excellence….
(BUT I am most proud of the team I inherited and built, since I was told to I should fire half but instead we grew it into an envied and effective unit, build on individual strengths and cohesive collaboration.)

AMS Award….
(But I am most proud of how the team managed to take our Women’s Health portfolio to market leadership in all the major markets, and how well we worked together with the countries and our customers to lead during challenging times)

Best New Business Award 2015…
(But I am most proud of how we have managed to keep our staff healthy and happy, and how we have managed to serve our customers globally during the pandemic.)

UK Entrepreneur of the Year 2017….
(But I am most proud of how my team has trusted me, in crisis after crisis, to keep us safe, do the right thing, steer us through the unchartered waters and come out as winners on the other side.)

UK CEO of the Year 2021….
(But I am most proud of the comment I got from a customer in the UK, a surgeons whom I have known for a long time who said “your personal trademark is ‘ethical success”. Best compliment ever from a surgeon to someone in industry.)

The Queens Award for Enterprise: INNOVATION 2021….
(but I am most proud of how I, an immigrant, have been able to show my children that no matter where you come from and what background you have, good things come to those who stay focused, work hard and stick to what they are good at.)

My Dream-Me is pretty harsh…

Angela Spang

I have embarked on the daunting journey of writing a book….or three, more accurately. Apparently I have a lot to say (who knew)…

I have always been a fan of objective viewing of self, as we tend to be either overly critical or alternatively not clear on our strengths and how we should manage them in relation to other people (and their potential shortcomings in the same area), but I have to say that I am taking it to a new level now!

The other day I woke up in the middle of a dream, and clearly the book writing challenge has made quite an impact — I am obviously pretty occupied with the idea since I was actually DREAMING about it. This is slightly concerning since I haven’t actually written a SINGLE word yet! I am worried what is to come.

Stick to Twitter

Dream-Me

I woke up offended.

My Dream-Me was telling my real me to “stick to Twitter”. Ouch. I am all for straight communication, but that is HARSH feedback to someone who hasn’t even started writing yet! Clearly Dream-Me is not wasting any time! She isn’t wrong though: I have said for years that I like Twitter — the limitation of characters is a challenge and a blessing — better be succinct and not waffle. I have seen the same tendencies in myself when it comes to writing: I struggle with filling in long blank spaces in applications for funding or similar (maybe that’s why I never applied for anything apart from an epic double failure in a Horizon2020 application a couple of years back where the second attempt was actually scored WORSE than the FIRST one. I gave up after that.).

Realise when you are not the best person for the job

One of my strengths as a leader is to put the right person in the right place. I match make well between people and roles, and sometimes I see futures for people that they may have not realised themselves. This strength is useful here….I have absolutely no plans to become a writer. Just because I have STORIES to tell doesn’t make me a writer…those are different things. People who believe that authors should only write their own stories or you aren’t a real author if you don’t do the actual writing yourself haven’t thought long enough about it, imho.

After all, Authors have editors, illustrators, designers….and they use computers 😉

I will have a writing partner

She will take the jumbled words, the blurry memories, the ugly and unsaid, the beauty and the magic…and she will use her skill and talent to turn my secrets and my scars into something that we can all learn from. I will have to trust her; I know it will require me to be brave. I will tell her things I have never told anyone, and I am already scared.

Maybe that is why my Dream-Me is saying stick to Twitter. She is not wrong.

Will you read my books?

I don’t do guilt.

I find the idea of feeling guilty utterly useless. That does not, however, mean that I don’t sometimes fall into the trap of feeling guilty. But, I try very, very hard to a) identify it and b) get out of it as quickly as I can.

Guilt is not productive.

When I went to work after my first daughter was born, I set a rule for myself to not fall into the trap of feeling guilty:

I decided that when I was at work, I needed to be okay with being there, do my best and not waste any of the time I was there on feeling guilty — that certainly would not make anything better. I also frequently reminded myself that I had made the choice to go to work; therefor I should make the most of that decision and commit to it.

Similarly, I banned myself from thinking about work when I was home. I was SO FOCUSED on what I was doing, no matter where I was, no matter which role I was in at the moment. It required enormous amounts of discipline, and of course it didn’t always work; it was a new experience for me to feel inadequate about something I was doing, but if anything, that pushed me even harder to try to manage my thoughts and feelings about being a working parent.

Impact of guilt

Guilt is an incredibly powerful emotion. There is a wide range of things to feel guilty about – from feeling guilty about eating the last piece of chocolate to feeling guilty about someone you hurt.

The feeling of guilt is unique from feeling sad or upset – guilt often combines feelings of shame, anxiety, frustration, and humiliation.

These emotions can well up inside and build over time, most especially if we never admit to ourselves that we made a choice and we are unhappy about it. Guilt can majorly affect our sense of self-worth and self-esteem.

Regardless of where the guilt comes from, the stress of the guilt itself can have a serious effect on some people. While mostly psychological, some physical effects can include insomnia, a loss of appetite, and an overall dreary feeling. Guilt happens to share a lot of symptoms with depression; and depression can develop within someone with severe guilt issues.

As you can imagine, having just started a new job, I had very little time for any of that, so I KNEW had to find a way to manage my emotions.

“Yeah yeah but HOW!?”

1. Make a list of WHEN you feel guilty. And then WHY.

If you feel guilty because you’re “not doing enough” for your kids, partner, or family, list all the things that you regularly do for them. Then, keep the list in your purse or wallet to pull out when guilt rears its head. Break the guilt thought (use CBT!)

2. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Just ASK!

Ask the people you think you’re neglecting whether they actually feel neglected. Consider whether they have a tendency to expect too much and not take enough responsibility for themselves (e.g., teenagers who expect you to pick up after them). Ask an outsider.

3. P.R.I.O.R.I.T.I.S.E

Prioritise. Be ruthless. What are the things someone else can do? For me, it is cleaning the house. Not just because someone else CAN do it…but also because it is cheaper than couples therapy, and as much as I love my partner, I have NEVER met two people who wake up and realise that it is cleaning time at the same moment….thus cleaning will inevitably cause friction in a household!

4. Realize it’s okay to take care of your own needs.

Big or small things is less important, but you have to make sure you also look after yourself. Plan it, execute it, and acknowledge it. The simple act of reading a few pages in your new book every night can works wonders — if recognised and appreciated as an act of self care.