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Thinkers50 in 50 Seconds: Alf Rehn

All 50 Second Q&As

Alf Rehn, shortlisted for the 2015 Thinkers50 Innovation Award, is short but never snappy in a quick fire interview.

What book are you currently reading?

Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Superforecasting by Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner.

Do you describe yourself as a thinker?

At times, yes, because it’s the one thing that ties together all that I do: being an academic, a strategic advisor, a writer, a speaker, a board professional and a (pop) culture vulture.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

I try to seek inspiration in people outside of my own field, and primarily people who challenge the status quo. So I try to seek it in everything from original philosophers to upstart chefs. And gin, of course. Can’t forget gin.

What does success look like?

Success is freedom, freedom is success. It doesn’t matter how rich or famous you become, if that’s just another thing keeping you tied down to things.

What is your next goal?

My next goal has for some time been to finish my book Saving Innovation, a book that has resisted my finishing it for some time now.

When did you last say ‘Eureka!’!?

When I finally figured out what the secret to a great creative culture is.

Why is the Thinkers50 important to you?

It is both an intellectually stimulating community and a great place to find new, inspiring thinkers. Oh, and most everyone I’ve met in conjunction with it has been lovely, fascinating people!

What is your competitive advantage?

I’m naturally suspicious of anything that is universally accepted or celebrated, and utterly comfortable with provocation and challenging the status quo.

How would you describe yourself in three words?

Creative, contrarian, caffeinated.

How do you keep your thinking fresh?

I ensure that I have a very high ISQ (Input Strangeness Quotient) at all times: I read strange things, meet curious people, make sure to travel to odd places and cultivate bizarre interests.

How do you divide your time?

I try to share my time evenly between academic work and engagements with business and industry. Balance, balance in all things.

How much time do you spend travelling?

As someone who lives in several countries I estimate that I’m travelling, in one way or another, at least 50% of my time. At times far more.

What is the secret of a great presentation?

A true connection with the audience, a narrative arc, and an element of surprise.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Only follow other people’s footsteps as far as to the precipice, but not over it…

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