The Theory of Profitivity

Henrik Hyldgaard’s brand strategy studio in Denmark called Hotel Creativity represents a bold breed of Scandinavian-style business innovation. He’s invented a new twist on driving profits and building brands that he calls “profitivity”, Henrik is on a mission to teach the next generation of business leaders to surf the waves of change.

A Brand Surfer In A Land-locked Town In Denmark Invents The Theory of Profitivity

The second-to-the-last thing you’d imagine when you visit the workspace of a brand expert in Herning, Denmark is a banana yellow surfboard smack dab in the middle of the floor. And the absolute last thing you’d envision would be a guy with the impish humor of a standup comedian like Conan O’Brien, the iconic visionary voice of a Seth Godin-type of character, and the business savvy and bravery of a Richard Branson—standing in the middle of his offices dressed in a wetsuit all set to head off on a cultural tour of his country’s most innovative brands.

Meet Henrik Hyldgaard, author of the recently published book Hotel Creativity (yes that is the same as the name of his studio) and inventor of an original model for business: The Theory of Profitivity, based on the premise that creativity—not simply analysis—is what’s been missing in every business’s quest to drive profits. Inspired by this innovative theory, I flew out to Denmark to experience his ideas in action and interview him about his radical belief that business needs to view creativity as much more than a nice-to-have. According to Henrik, profits are stuck these days because we’ve throttled, muzzled, and gagged our creativity.

Henrik is committed to changing all of that, and explained his obsession: “The companies that thrive in today’s fast-paced environment have learned that they have to maintain and expand their brands and business value every day. Profits used to come from staying the course. Today, it’s all about keeping up with change. Creativity is the skill that everyone needs to master right now—creativity is only path to profits. Everyone needs to ‘go profitate’.”

A Distinctly Danish Field Experience: Profitate or Die

From the minute I met Henrik, I saw the world of branding through a new lens. We went out together to experience “profitivity” in action, and visited a company that is proof of the power of the maxims of profitivity:

1. Design creativity into your culture as a “must have”.

2. Invent remarkable experiences for your customers to jolt people out of brand complacency.

3. Get the entire company into the act of responding to trends and improving on the buzz of your brand. Everyone from the CFO, CIO, HR leaders to the front line teams has to get on board.

4. Don’t start with incremental thinking when you think of driving future profits. Start with new, more innovative questions like, “What can we do to get our customers to love us?”

Henrik wanted me to see how the Theory of Profitivity works, so he took me to visit Aarstiderne, a large organic farm outside of Copenhagen. Its founders started with an observation: families wanted to preserve the feeling of the family dinner table, even though their busy lifestyles made it hard to visit the market every day. By putting Profitivity (not merely pure profits) front and center in every aspect of their operations, they grew from a tiny team to what is now a thriving, complex business that delivers more than 35,000 meals per week throughout Denmark.

We walked onto the grounds of what felt like a Whole Foods Market transformed into a multi-acre farm with the buzz of Google headquarters. Everywhere you turned, you could see creativity front and center in the culture—from the R&D lab to the microbrewery, to the farmers market, to the community cooking classes, to the web, packaging, book design and TV studio, to their packaging facility.

The management team commented on how the principles of Profitivity drive every decision, “Aarstiderne owes our success to our creative bofællesskab [literally, “cohabitation”] with our customers. We keep raising the bar on surprise, and the profits follow.”

If Fast Company Had A Campus In Scandinavia, This Would Be It

Henrik is convinced that every business today needs to replace their current thinking with the Profitivity insights. He’s devised the world’s first MBA in Business Creativity with a curriculum that is part Stanford D-School, part Design for America, focused on the process of instilling creativity into the business decisions that are made in every industry, every day. The Masters of Business Creativity—set to enroll their first students in the Fall of 2013 at the Business Institute in Aalborg—Denmark, will train everyone to think completely differently about business, shifting their focus from spreadsheets to imagination.

The curriculum will teach business students how to tap into their own creative aptitude, connect with a global community of experts in fields ranging from design to technology to logistics, and expose everyone to Skype sessions with experts, lab simulations, and field experiences (like the Aarstiderne farm) that demonstrate Profitivity in action.

Stay tuned and wax your board, preparing to surf the waves of change—Henrik Hyldgaard is out to build a global network of like-minded, “profitating” people to get involved in his mass movement, with a bigger vision to involve a larger crowd to tackle issues of sustainability, fashion, manufacturing, financial services, and edgy product design.