March 6, 2017

Fredrik Härén is an author and speaker on Business Creativity. He has delivered over 2000 presentations, lectures and workshops in over 60 countries on 6 continents and has inspired hundreds of thousands of business people to become more creative and to look at the world in a new way. He is the author of nine books, including “The Idea Book” that was included in “The 100 Best Business Books of All Time”.

Fredrik gave an exclusive interview to BBF Magazine on the sidelines of COMMWARD in September ‘16.

How does it feel visiting Bangladesh?

Fredrik Härén: I love being in Bangladesh. People ask me which is your favorite country to speak in and I usually say India for me Indian and Bangladeshi cultures are similar in the sense people are very thirsty for knowledge and critical in a positive way. You can go to some countries where people are very critical to your message and they don’t believe in anything you say or they don’t want to believe it or very conservative countries, where they don’t want to hear anything new. But India & Bangladesh and yeah I would say Pakistan also has the same kind of mentality of always wanting to learn something new but not without some thought but unlike some Asian countries they are just “” but are not questioning it at all. And you have the best of both worlds actually.

Last year you have spoken in twenty-two countries if I am not wrong?

Yeah, I took around five months off and then I did twenty-two countries in seven months.

That’s quite impressive. So how was the overall experience?

The experience is that when I travel to developing countries and I go to developed countries, I go to all kinds of industries so I remember last year I was in one week for Bankers in Switzerland, farmers in Nigeria and car dealers in America for the same week. And when you do that you start to see different things all over the World, it’s like an astronaut goes to Space and see Earth from a different perspective. Just because I travel around so much and do all the different industries I get the sense of humanity and not just the one country or one part of the World or one industry, which is a really thrilling actually.

You are a renowned keynote speaker and already have made over two thousand presentations. What is your secret to having a strong inspirational speech or presentation?

I usually say to myself before I go up on stage “Say what you believe and believe what you say” which means say what you believe and believe what you say – first part is only talk about things you already believe in. Don’t say things that your audience needs to hear, just say what you truly believe. Even if the audience don’t agree with you totally, they will still respect you. Like democrats listening to Donald Trump might not agree with him at all, but will still somehow respect the politician just because he says what he believes. May be Donald Trump is a bad example because no one believes what Donald Trump talks about. But the second part of it when you say something that makes them feel that you actually believe in. Don’t apologize for what you believe in – if you truly are passionate about something you should be passionate about it. When you are angry about something you should sound angry about it. Don’t sound like a speaker just sound what you really mean to say because what happens when you do those things it becomes genuine and everyone loves a genuine speaker.

You talk business creativity, innovation, and change! So according to you how important is creativity and innovation for modern day businesses?  

I said in my speech today that it has always been important. But before it was important in the sense that people saw it as a way to prepare for a storm. The storm is coming and we need to prepare for the storm, the typhoon is coming. But now the mindset of the managers is the storm is already here. The typhoon is already here and when the storm is over you, you are in a higher sense of urgency and that’s the feeling I have right now. I have been speaking about it for twenty years, it has never been that urgent than it is right now as we have to get things done “now”.

What tools are readily available for businesses in achieving creativity and innovation?

The most important tool would be called human beings because the creativity comes from human beings and when most people are very creative but they haven’t been taught how to be creative, they haven’t been unleashed so there is this big untapped potential. So, if you invest in teaching your staff to how to be more creative that’s the biggest tool you have there.

You have worked and interacted with major creative businesses around the world for your research! So what are your observations about Bangladeshis agencies or about the industries itself?

From a developing world perspective, I actually think you are quite organized. I have been speaking at different conferences like this in other developing countries like Indonesia, Thailand and then Philippines and I must say you have impressed me actually… I am not just saying this – it’s actually true. I think they are all very good but you have created a very strong community and you set your goals high. May be there is this compete with India kind of thing – saying that we need to always keep up with them. Even though you are much smaller I think you fit into the benchmark set with India – it’s like Singapore fits with the benchmark set with New York with a much bigger city, Singapore is much smaller it keeps up with the benchmark of a bigger City. I think Bangladesh keeps up with the benchmark with your neighbor which is much bigger…which is a good thing.

According to you what would be the next big thing for this Industry?

Like, I said in my speech I think the best next thing is that people in your industry need to start thinking about using their skills in this industry and take a much bigger responsibility on transforming businesses. I actually started a Digital Agency twenty one years ago and the idea was to take the knowledge of advertising agencies and then add management consultancy to it and go in and change the whole business because it’s not about making an Ad is about making an experience for the consumer. Like when your hotel is being ranked on Trip Advisor it does not matter how good your Ad is it matters how good your hotel is, right?! If the Ad is wonderful and the hotel sucks I will see that on Trip Advisor. So the creative people need to go in and create an experience on hotel not just an experience in the Ad and it never really happened because advertising agencies are kind of slow to adopt to become Digital Agencies and when they word they digitalizing content and now it’s time to go to much deeper and so we are going be business development because it’s not going be management consultant who should be doing it. It’s the creative to experience the user friendliness the emotions all of that which is the companies are doing it well that what are actually good at, like you have a personal connection to the brand and you guys who know this so step up and take a much bigger responsibility.

What do you think what are the obstacles that marketers face while creating a creative communication?

I think the obstacle is they get stuck up on limiting themselves in a campaign or advertising things when what they should be doing is taking a broader approach. It’s kind of like a doctor trying to create a healthy human being by just focusing on the arm. You are focusing on a really good arm and when it doesn’t help, the process becomes unhealthy. So, you need to make a more holistic approach and take a bigger responsibility. When you do so, the creative process might actually become easier even though it becomes more complex. 

So you were speaker of the COMMWARD Summit 2014 in Bangladesh. So you know COMMWARD recognizes the best creative campaigns of the country. What are your remarks about that how important do you think such initiative is for Bangladesh?

I haven’t seen the one for this year but what I have said in my speech was like the quality of advertising that is coming out from all of the world now is just amazing and that’s not how it used to be. It used to be great Ads from the West and the East did not so good that’s gone now. Just see a good Ad and it can come from anywhere. It’s like the younger brother becomes higher achieve to the older brother starts biting the older brother but the younger brother still thinks he is the little brother-he needs to go off that and say it doesn’t matter if I am not a little brother anymore I am just higher achiever he is and the confidence should come from I am as good as he is and not that I am a younger and I am good as he is! Just drop the younger brother mentality.

Tell us something about the Idea Book?

Well, we are going to launch it in Bangladesh and we going to do it for free I am going to make zero money on it, giving away the rights. The idea is the book should be given away for free or at a very low price to as many people in Bangladesh as possible. My mindset is what happens to poor people how to be creative I am absolutely convinced that there will be less poor. I think poverty comes from a lack of imagination not only but if you poor you need to be much more creative than you are rich. If you are rich you can buy anything any solution but if you are poor you can’t which is much more complex but what if you are creative you are in a much better place than you are poor.

What will be your core message to the young marketers of Bangladesh?

Develop your creativity and curiosity and think much bigger than just Bangladesh. Try to become a creative human being which means look everywhere for good ideas look everywhere for business potential and look everywhere how to develop yourself and when you start doing that I am not a Swedish speaker am not a Swedish Author am an Author and a Speaker and when I change set mindset for ten years I was a Swedish speaker and a Swedish Author. I was so limited to thinking and selling and producing ideas for Sweden and when I said I am not going to do this I am going to be a Speaker and Author my world just open up. The things I have seen in last ten years compare to things I saw in first ten years is just incomparable. Doesn’t matter if you have to travel the world like I do it means you have to open up your mind to do world and then you can do products only for Bangladesh, that’s okay but you need to have the global mindset.

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