AUTHOR and speaker Fredrik Haren was recently in Kuala Lumpur to give a series of talks on creativity and to launch his book The Idea Book, which has been translated into various languages.
Haren, a Swede, was Speaker of the Year in 2007 and was selected as one of “Sweden’s 100 most inspiring persons” by the magazine “Leva” in 2008. CHOO LI-HSIAN caught up with him during his trip here.
Author and speaker Fredrik Haren was in Kuala Lumpur recently to launch The Idea Book
BizBooks: What motivated you to write The Idea Book?
Haren: We started interesting.org to inspire people to be more creative. I wrote The Idea Book because I had read a lot of creativity books (hundreds of them!) and yet most of them did not inspire me to be more creative. I basically wrote the creativity book that I myself wanted to read.
Many of us have had a good idea at some time or another. However, creativity is more than just creating. It is about taking a good idea and transforming it into a successful and sustainable concept. I don’t just write about creativity but I apply my own creativity techniques.
The success of The Idea Book is a good example of how you can use innovative ways to create, produce, promote, market and sell an idea. I share this experience with people at my talks.
How did you go about writing the book?
I have written seven books. It takes me about one year to write a book. About 99% of that time is usually spent collecting stories, examples and other material that I can use. Just in the last six months, I have been to more than 14 countries and have interviewed people from all kinds of fields about creativity. The actual writing is something I do in a two- to three-week stretch at a beach somewhere, where I write from 7am to 11pm.
What is the main message that you want to convey through the book?
That everyone can and should get more creative. The book will inspire the really creative to try harder and help the less creative to start becoming more creative.
What is so different about the book?
First of all, the book is 50% book and 50% notebook – 150 pages about ideas and 150 pages for your own ideas. It is a creativity book that is creatively done.
The book pages contain insights, case studies and anecdotes on creativity, innovation and inspiration from various fields.
Leonardo Da Vinci and Thomas Edison understood the importance of writing down their ideas and observations in notebooks. Da Vinci produced a large number of sketches, notes and scribbling. After Edison’s death in 1931, an amazing 3,500 notebooks were found in his home.
So, the idea with the 150 white pages is to inspire you to start developing your own ideas and personalising your own copies with these ideas and thoughts, making each copy unique. This makes the book something interactive – a dialogue, not a monologue.
It is a book about ideas that help you get ideas of your own.
Who has bought the book? Where has the book been sold around the world?
Usually you are not supposed to answer that your product is for “everyone” because that means it is for “no one”; but The Idea Book has really been bought by everyone! From 10-year olds to 78-year olds. From really, really creative people to people who did not think they were creative.
Hundreds of organisations have also bought The Idea Book including HP (which bought 400 copies as corporate gifts to clients), Hyper Island (the top multimedia school in Sweden bought it as training material for their students) and Deutsche Bank in Germany (which bought 600 copies for internal creativity training). I have also sold 700 copies to the Singapore government.
It has been sold to more than 40 countries and has been translated into 14 languages (including Mandarin and Japanese).
Aside from the book, what else do you do to promote creativity?
I do keynote speeches, talks, seminars, training sessions and workshops. I have done more than 1,000 such speaking events on creativity and idea generation in over 30 countries.
Who have you worked with? Who do you normally work with?
I have worked virtually in all fields with literally hundreds of different organisations, from the Supreme Court of Singapore to Oracle, the software company.
I have also worked with nurses, hotels like the Ritz Carlton, prime schools like Insead and Hyper Island as well as companies like IBM, Microsoft, Nokia, Ericsson, Sony Ericsson, China Mobile, HP, GE, IKEA, Volvo, Pfizer, Ogilvy, Saab, Absolut Vodka, the Swedish National Bank and the Finance Ministry of Singapore.
What are the most interesting projects and assignments that you have worked on?
There are just so many! Just last month, for example, I was invited to Iran (!) and did, among other things, a speech for 200 women at an all-women university where everyone was dressed the same. And the theme of my speech was “The value of doing things differently”.
I was also invited to speak to the Police Coast Guard of Singapore, which is working actively to become more creative. I talked to employees of the Swedish Ministry of Commerce – including the minister himself – about why Sweden has to become more innovative. A few weeks before that, I spoke to an audience in Norway that included the Prime Minister, the Prince of Norway and the richest man in Norway.
However, I find it just as interesting to be invited to be part of a programme at a school that is trying to change the way they teach.
Why is creativity important?
To improve our quality of life, we need to find more creative and innovative ways of doing existing things and then making those necessary changes happen. How we do things today is just not sustainable in the long run.
At interesting.org, we focus on getting people to understand that each and every one of us in a country, community or organisation needs to more creative, not just a choice few.
How can we each promote creativity?
Short answer, by buying The Idea Book for everyone you know! Longer answer, there is not just one thing that needs to be done; it is many things.
Like changing how we teach our children, how we approach things in our personal life to how we do our work and train our staff in companies. We should focus on teaching people how to think differently instead of just to absorb information.
Almost everyone I have ever interviewed – and I have interviewed thousands – say that they would like the people around them (e.g. their children, colleagues, staff) to be more creative or innovative.
We should not only talk about the value and importance of creativity but to also do something concrete to personally develop our own creativity, apply it in our own lives and in the communities or organisations we belong to.
·Haren is finalising his second book (and accompanying website) entitled The Developing World on why the developing world has an advantage over the west in the area of innovation and creativity.
For more information on The Developing World, go to
www.theideabook.org/video/, where the last three videos deal with this book.
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