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Fredrik Haren: there’s always a story behind the idea

Fredrik Härén is an author and speaker on creativity and business and he is among those inspiring speakers who will take part in FORUM ONE 2014. Over the last 10 years he has delivered over 1 500 speeches at companies and organisations in virtually every industry; from nuclear power plants in Sweden, the Air Force in Sri Lanka, advertising executives in India, bankers in the USA, telecom managers in China and many, many more. He was awarded ‘Speaker of The Year’ in Sweden in 2007. His books have been translated into 15 languages and ‘The Idea Book’ was included in ‘The 100 Best Business Books of All Time’. Though Härén is based in Singapore, actually he‘s a true citizen of the world who has been invited to speak in nearly 50 countries on five continents.

He’s saying that when it comes to creativity his inspiring heroes are Tom and Jerry: “It’s always a constant fight to see who can be more creative in smacking the other one up.” And if you find it unexpected, better be prepared for more surprises – Fredrik is full of them and tells us why: “Ideas inspire us like almost nothing else in life. The word inspiration means “to breathe in” – in other words, to be inspired is “the oxygen of our mind” – it’s what’s keeps us alive”.

But the best part is that he is not just speaking about how important creative thinking is for every single company and for a whole world – he lives by creativity principles in his daily life. And his ideas have a strong personal experience and real-life stories standing behind them. “As a speaker you have to know the world of business but you also have to know the business of the world,” – explains his point of view Härén.

Here are two different stories that brought Fredrik to a great ideas, taken from his personal life experience.


First story: get to know the other side

“If I say Nigeria, what would you think?

Most people, I think, would say “kidnapped girls”, “terrorism”, “corruption”, “scam letters”, “poverty” or some other negative word, and all those descriptions could be used on Nigeria.

But when I came back from delivering two speeches in Lagos my strongest insight from that trip was how slanted our world view becomes when we only get our news about the world from the news. It’s like some parts of the world can only get negative news.

Yes, Nigeria has huge problems. But did you also know that the country just became the largest economy in Africa? That its 170 million (!) nationals is expected to have grown to 400 (!) million in 35 years, making it the 3rd largest country in the world? That Nigerians are a very, very, happy people?

A few years back you had to carry huge bags of cash with you if you went to Nigeria because there were no credit cards, not even ATMs. Today the ATMs are plenty (I had 3 different ones to choose from in my hotel but settled all my bills with credit card.)

Nigeria is “gloom” but also “boom”.

But we only hear about the gloom, or mostly and it got me thinking. When we only hear about one side of a story, we start to believe that, that is the only story there is and that limits our minds.

In his famous poem “The road not taken” Robert Frost wrote:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

I love those lines. To take the road less traveled should be celebrated – but what truly made the difference was not that he took the road less traveled by – but that he traveled at all.

Traveling – both physical and mental traveling, as in seeing new places, new sights, new ideas – is what makes us grow. Is what makes us less close-minded. More open-minded.

And if there is anything the world’s needs right now it is more people being open to new, better – and yes, different ideas.

When even there is something that you feel strongly about – especially something you feel very negative about – question if you are really looking at from multiple perspectives. Or if your perspective could benefit from looking at the same issue from some other points of view. It usually can.”


Second story: after all is gone

“A few years back me and my wife had an idea: What if we would let people stay – for free! – on our private island in the Philippines so they could work on their ideas! It was a beautiful idea. We called it Ideas Island, launched a website (www.ideasisland.com), invested, built and planned and finally started to invite guests. The people who got to stay there just loved it and we loved being able to let people stay there for free and we loved the ideas the guests worked on.

After some time that dream got a punch in the face in the form of super-Typhoon Yolanda.

All that we had been building over the few years got destroyed. Our house, our two boats, our infrastructure. Everything. Even our tree-house got blown away. As our caretaker wrote in his first SMS to us when his mobile started to work again: “All is gone.” Luckily our staff is safe! But the dream that we made happen is gone. We are back to where we started: with an empty island with nothing on it.

Seeing the idea of Ideas Island go from idea to realisation to over-night destruction has made me realise something: To see one of your favourite ideas come to life is one of the purest forms of happiness there is. To see one of your favourite projects be ruined is not sad. It just leaves you with a feeling of emptiness.

And from that I have drawn the conclusion that we should all think about what grand, beautiful, crazy or beautiful ideas we are carrying around with us. What is stopping us from making them happen? Is it fear? Of what? Failure? What will happen if it doesn’t become a success?

Well, take it from me:

The joy of giving birth to ideas is greater than the sorrow of seeing ideas die. Immensely bigger. We have nothing to fear. You have nothing to fear.

Go back and revisit those gorgeous ideas of yours and pick the one that you really would like to make happen. That one idea that the world really needs. Or the one you just think is a fun, little, cool thing that would make people smile – like our idea of Ideas Island. And then make it happen.

If it does become a success you will feel immortal. If it fails you will not die. The sun will rise again, you will move on – but at least you will feel happy that you tried.

Believe in your ideas.

Make them happen.

Tell your friends to make their ideas happen.

You will be glad you did.

Even if you one day wake up to the news that your idea was blown away in a storm.

Trust me. I know.”


And some more useful tips for those whose idea wells seemed to have dried up
“Rethink your creative process. Sit down. Write the ten best ideas you’ve had in your life. Think about the time when those ideas came to your mind. Think about the circumstances that surrounded you when those ideas popped up. Find the common denominator in those circumstances, and that should be your creative process. Doing these will help you a lot.”