Fredrik Haren at #LeadingEdge2019 | Outlook Business
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Perspective

Think Different
Four lessons you missed in Fredrik Härén’s talk at #LeadingEdge2019 on creative innovation

Binjal Shah

The difference between mediocrity and excellence is ‘creativity’ — and speaking at Outlook Business #LeadingEdge2019, Fredrik Härén added that he believes that India is poised to become the most creative nation in the world. But, he added, even the nation of jugaad could do well to internalize a few lessons. The founder of Ideas Island and author of The Idea Book, one of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time, went on to list them.

1. ‘Be confidently-doubtful’

“If everyone is walking in one direction and you want to go, ‘screw those people, I’m going to walk in that direction instead,’ you have to be confident to be able to say that. However, a truly creative person would confusedly pick one direction, then another, then a third because they would constantly be doubting themselves and wondering if there is an even better way,” said Härén. According to him, this uncertainty can be one’s biggest strength.The desire to be different is buttressed by confidence but, beyond that, the thirst to be the best has to be fueled by “FOMO”— that is, the fear of missing out. It might be worth it to explore all possible dirtroads in uncharted territory, to find the best road not taken. Simply put, you need to be confidently doubtful.

2. Find out what is your ‘un-understood change’

“E-books haven’t replaced books; it’s Facebook that has replaced books. We simply went from buying books to not buying too many books anymore — as one’s smartphone is replacing books as a preferred avenue of entertainment. Most companies, most industries and most people are quite bad at understanding change and disruption and, hence, cannot anticipate it and mitigate its effect,” said Härén. Every industry may be having nightmares but they currently consist only of contemporaries improvising on an existing offering, not potential paradigm shifts in consumption patterns. Even when it comes to the former, larger, older corporations tend to have limited foresight; citing the example of the auto industry, Härén states that while other legacy brands continue to introduce innovation, a non-descript start-up beat them to it. The young company decided to ambitiously build the world’s first flying car prototype.

3. Be a nomad!

When every start-up conference speaker cries himself or herself hoarse in urging entrepreneurs to proclaim unfaltering, undying love for their initial ideas, he said otherwise. Härén said it might be valuable to be more flexible in gauging market opportunity, and adopting “nomadic thinking” instead. The term “nomad” does not mean ‘one who does not have a house’; it is one who is always moving, wandering, looking for greener pastures. “A nomad will say to themselves — where is the best place on earth to live? And they will go seeking that place. When it stops being the best place to live, they will uproot their tent and move to where it is even better,” explained Härén. This Nomadic school of thought lends itself beautifully to entrepreneurship as well. For example — Amazon started out as an online retailer for books, sensed the opportunity in diversifying to other products until it became a near exhaustive online marketplace, after which, it entered the verticals of content, cloud, and finally, even offline retailing, when they foresaw massive gain in each.

4. There is something to learn from every country

There are lessons lurking in the entrepreneurial and scientific temper of every ecosystem and every country — while the Americans are known for their outrageous moonshots, the Japanese like to make incremental optimisation in their systems through their ‘kaizen’ approach. In fact, even China’s copycat entrepreneurship can inspire innovation — for the art is in knowing how to copy from the best, and make it even better.

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