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Build a great idea, block by block

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers,Profiles in Leadership

As a young child in northern Sweden, Yngve Bergqvist spent much of his time shoveling snow. Years later, he was so accustomed to snow and ice that he built a thriving business around it.

Bergqvist decided to create a hotel made entirely of ice. It seemed crazy to try to attract tourists to frigid northern Sweden to sleep on a bed of ice, but the concept worked. Today, the Ice Hotel has spawned copycats around the world.

Initially, Bergqvist invited Japanese artists to build ice sculptures in Sweden. The exhibit generated positive buzz, so Bergqvist spent the following winter helping construct a big igloo with friends.

The king of Sweden stopped by and that led to extensive news coverage of the ice structure. A year later, Bergqvist created an even larger building made of snow—an expo housing art exhibits and an ice bar.

When some visitors asked if they could stay overnight in the building, Bergqvist thought if they’re willing to pay, maybe others would too.

The following winter, Bergqvist cut ice out of the nearby river and used it to build his hotel. The unique character of the hotel led to global media attention.

For 22 years, Bergqvist’s hotel has been a magnet for tourists. Looking back, he admits the idea unfolded in ways he could not have predicted.

Like many visionaries, he took incremental risks, assessed the results and advanced to the next step. He gained buy in from others by making it easy for volunteers to help him rebuild the structure every winter and feel like they were part of something special.

— Adapted from The Click Moment, TFrans Johansson, Portfolio/Penguin.


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