• Sweden edition
'Every creative agency in California wants a Swede'

'Every creative agency in California wants a Swede'

Published: 05 Mar 2013 10:17 GMT+01:00
Updated: 05 Mar 2013 10:17 GMT+01:00

The Local speaks to TEDxStockholm founder Carl Bärstad on why the Swedes are an innovative nation - and why they need to learn how to fail.

Swedes are an indeed an inventive bunch having patented the likes of the safety match and pacemaker, to name a few discoveries, over time.

These days Swedes are more closely associated with IT innovations such as Spotify and Skype – both inventions in their way just as transformative as fire-making and maintaining a heart beat.

"Every creative agency in California wants to have a Swede because of our reputation," according to Bärstad. Or at least that's what his friends Stateside tell him.

"I’m not sure if that is justified but Swedish people are creative because we have a very open mindset."

It was whilst studying the heavyweight subject of industrial engineering that Bärstad surprisingly found his calling.

"While involved in something very theoretical and inapplicable I realised that I needed to have more room for creative expression," he adds.

"I’ve always loved science and I’ve been very easily fascinated by technology and where we are heading as a society and special – that’s why I love TED."

The global conference arena (Technology, Entertainment, Design) that began in California was formed to disseminate 'ideas worth spreading'. The format has grown internationally and independent TEDx events started up in Stockholm in 2012.

So far, the TEDxStockholm team have explored the innovative nature of the capital's mindset.

"The people I have met through TEDx have the ability to think creatively and can then apply that in a more analytical-scientific setting.”

This kind of meeting place is also reminiscent of the maker and hackerspace movement of which Bärstad is a keen advocate.

The philosophy provides physical spaces to encourage creativity through exploration, experimentation with a good dose of trial and error thrown in.

"There have always been garage inventors but now through the internet and people being more connected, there is a new wave of makers that prefer doing things together," he adds.

"They gather all their resources into one space and where they play around with technology and crafts and anything you can imagine."

It has also been an inspiration for Bärstad’s Sparkling Science project, an initiative that has a two-fold objective.

Working with schools, it encourages kids to give the subject a bigger chance through experiential learning. Meanwhile, in the business world, colleagues are coached on the benefits of thinking 'inside' the box.

MakeyMakey from Immigrants on Vimeo.

The play on words is used to promote Sparkling Science's "think inside the box" workshop, which Bärstad is hosting when we meet, along with a mix of enthusiastic professionals in his makeshift laboratory.

It's a chance to see first-hand what happens when you give an accountant, a management consultant, a travel agent and a web designer the task of building an interactive music room.

Two teams are given little instruction but instead a black box of electronic gadgets, overflowing with wires, tapes, batteries, connectors and clamps.

"It’s a balance between the creative, intuitive mind and the rational, analytical mind," Bärstad says.

"You need both in order to invent and create – the maker movement is all about that balance. It’s a whole different approach to learning so when you participate in our workshops – you get a feel for that mindset."

Far from a textbook guide to technology, on-demand learning means you discover just enough to get you to the next step but not more, building creative confidence and learning with a more playful and non-judgemental outlook.

For kids this hands-on approach makes learning a very natural process. "That's why kids tend to be more creative than adults," Bärstad says. "And we believe that making learning fun again is the key to unlocking creativity at the workplace."

At the end of the workshop, the participants have built a simple floor piano that lights up when played with their feet.

From the starting point of puzzlement, the foursome can been seen bounding round the room barefoot in their lunchbreak in tune with their tailor-made instrument.

Bärstad is now taking this concept further into Swedish schools by way of introducing semester-long science projects. He also sees big opportunity in the corporate world.

“To quote IBM, creativity is the most valued trait of the 21st century,” he says. "Companies want to be more innovative but you're not a creative company by simply having fatboy sofas in a corner or an office that looks like Google.”

Rather than luring a token Swede to California on reputation alone, Bärstad believes that Sweden has the talent to produce more of the serial entrepreneurial spirit that could result in the next Skype or Spotify.

"What’s lacking in Sweden is a relationship to failure," he says. "We have a lot of patents and inventions that never make it to the market – if you’re afraid to be wrong it’s very hard to come up with anything original."

“I think it’s changing so I’d like to hope Sweden is becoming a bit more like Silicon Valley."

Bärstad is currently planning his first two workshops in San Francisco at the renowned hackerspace Noisebridge with founder Mitch Altman.

"It's a place where failure is an integral part of life, not some separate condition to constantly be avoided," he adds.

Article in partnership with TEDxStockholm

TED is a global non-profit devoted to ideas worth spreading. TEDx Stockholm is a program of local, self-organized events held in English in the Swedish capital.

The Local will be looking at some of the best ideas worth spreading from TEDx Stockholm over the coming weeks and months.

Related links:

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Sweden wants cruise missiles 'for defence'
Defence Minister Karin Enström. File photo: TT

Sweden wants cruise missiles 'for defence'

The Swedish government has announced plans to beef up its defence forces by fitting its fleet of Gripen fighter jets with long-range cruise missiles. READ () »

Swede of the Week
Sweden's oldest would-be MP: 'They promised I wouldn't get in'
Swedes vote in the 2010 elections. File photo: Dan Hansson/TT

Sweden's oldest would-be MP: 'They promised I wouldn't get in'

Gösta Arvedson, 89, is the oldest Riksdag candidate in Sweden, but our Swede of the Week explains that the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) had to make some unusual promises for him to put his name forward. READ () »

Elections 2014
Most Swedes lack info ahead of EU vote
The Green Party is one of only two parties devoting their websites to the EU elections. Here campaign manager Emma Rung presents the party's posters. Photo: Leif R Jansson/TT

Most Swedes lack info ahead of EU vote

The majority of Swedes feel the country's political parties are not doing enough to inform them about the upcoming European Parliament elections. Only two of the eight parties have dedicated their homepages to the May 25th polls. READ () »

Fatal Norrköping Brawl
Local church tried to stop Norrköping murders
Swedish police on the scene following Monday's fatal brawl. File: TT

Local church tried to stop Norrköping murders

The Syrian-Orthodox Church in Ektorp had tried to quell tensions between two rival families just hours before bad blood spilled into a massive brawl and two brothers lost their lives. READ () »

JobTalk Sweden
'Foreigners don't need to show banks Swedish ID'
The bridge that connects Sweden to the European continent. File: L.E. Daniel Larsson/Flickr

'Foreigners don't need to show banks Swedish ID'

The Swedish agency that helps Europeans fight impediments to the EU principle of free movement has revealed an increase in complaints, including one from a foreign citizen unable to open a bank account in Sweden. READ () »

Eurovision 2014
Pig heart shatters in Sweden's Eurovision clip
Sanna Nielsen in the new clip. Photo: YouTube (screenshot)

Pig heart shatters in Sweden's Eurovision clip

Sweden's Eurovision hopeful Sanna Nielsen released the official video for the song Undo on Wednesday, a clip featuring leather, slow motion destruction, and a frozen pig's heart and some violence. READ () »

Software robot pinches Swedish flats in seconds
Swedish apartments. File: The Local

Software robot pinches Swedish flats in seconds

A Swedish landlord suspects that a property fixer has set up a software robot to sign up for new flats on the market within seconds, and is charging house hunters to use the service. READ () »

Swedish zoo fire 'kills only the spiders'
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Swedish zoo fire 'kills only the spiders'

Twenty-five fire fighters were on hand on Wednesday night when a fire broke out in a southern Sweden animal park. The vast majority of the animals were unharmed, but the cluster of spiders wasn't so lucky. READ () »

Sweden Investor group posts sharp profit drop
File photo: Simon Cunningham/Flickr

Sweden Investor group posts sharp profit drop

Swedish investment giant Investor on Wednesday said its first-quarter profits slumped by a quarter, underlining Sweden's vulnerability to international instability. READ () »

Florida 'mystery knight' dies in Sweden
Michael Boatwright (R) and Medieval knight re-enactors.

Florida 'mystery knight' dies in Sweden

The "motel mystery" American who baffled US authorities by only speaking Swedish when he woke up from a coma last year has passed away, Swedish media reported on Wednesday. READ () »

People-watching April 23
Inside the 850-year-old king's coffin
Sponsored: South-eastern Sweden offers Öland beaches and more
Swedish underwear shop puts staff in front of the camera
IN PICTURES: The Local's Property of the Week - Täby
Sponsored: India+Sweden Week - India Unlimited
Sponsored: India+Sweden Week - A film, food, and finance feast
University applications rocket to record high
People-watching April 18-20
Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter
Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe
Swedish supermarket Ica pulls contested Easter commercial off air
Swedish royals set baptism date for princess
People-watching April 16
Who's the prime minister's heir?
Alfie Atkins
Are children's books the key to families integrating in Sweden?
'Sweden Dem protests cater to party's martyr image'
'Swedish research grants were fantastic, but now it's like Australia'
Only in Sweden: The ten problems you'd never encounter elsewhere
Swedes stopped to take my picture, but didn't look me in the eyes
Business & Money
A swipe of the hand replaced cash and cards in Lund
Video: Oliver Gee finds out how to embrace The Swedish Hug
Abba duo hints at reunion
Flash mobs hug it out across Sweden
Stockholm School of Economics
Sponsored Article
Why a bachelor's degree is no longer enough
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Blog Update: The Diplomatic Dispatch

28 October 15:16

The Green Growth Group Summit »

"Today on the 28 October in Brussels, a large group of key EU Ministers and business people, including UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey, and Swedish Environment Minister Lena Ek, will meet to discuss green growth. They all have a stake in resolving a challenge which, although it is crucial..." READ »

jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit: