Book Talk: Norwegian executive tells women to go for success over perfection

Thu Oct 9, 2014 1:24pm EDT
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By Gwladys Fouche

OSLO (Reuters) - Part memoir, part reflection on business life, "Good Enough for the Bastards" is a bestseller by Anita Krohn Traaseth, former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard Norway, encouraging women to reach for the top jobs.

The book, in the same vein as "Lean In" by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, took Norway by storm this year, selling 16,000 copies in a country where a non-fiction book is considered a hit if it breaks through the 800 mark.

The title is one of her father's favourite expressions, meant to encourage her to avoid unnecessary perfectionism. "He would say: 'Anita, when you try something out, it only has to be good enough for the bastards'," she told Reuters.

Traaseth does not provide a how-to guide to success. Instead, she reflects on the challenges she has faced, like growing up with a mother who was bipolar and took her own life. She also tells of the time she lost her job and felt ashamed as she queued up for benefits.

Traaseth, 42, spoke with Reuters about the book, which has just been published in English.

Q: Why did you want to write this book?

A: This was based on a blog on leadership I set up ( and a Norwegian publisher got interested. I had never dreamt of writing a book. Now that I have written it, my aim is to share a contemporary story about what is like being a female CEO in 2014. I did not want to do it the traditional way. I wanted to explain my life, how my courage was formed. I wanted to have a look at my CV not from the perspective of "look how good I am" but more from a perspective of vulnerability and the importance of lessons learnt.   Continued...

Anita Krohn Traaseth, former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard Norway, poses for a picture in Oslo September 8, 2014.    REUTERS/Gwladys Fouche