TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. The organization was created 25 years ago and it has become a unique community covering many disciplines and where the latest ideas and technologies are being unveiled and discussed. In the following, Roger Schmid reports on his visit to this year's TED Global Conference that took place in Edinburgh, Scotland from June 25 until June 29.
This was my fifth TED, but my first TED Global, and I found it very inspiring, like all TED’s, but also particularly interesting due to its more international nature versus the California sessions – just over 600 attendees, I believe, and 71 nationalities! This year’s theme was “Radical Openness” and I will try to briefly resume what I captured, selecting a few presenters, and knowing very well that it is impossible to describe 5 days of amazing talks in a few lines.
Our world has changed, that’s for sure! The Industrial age is being totally transformed by the Internet and the rules of the past don’t apply anymore. “Openness” is indeed the word, together with “Transparency” and “Sharing”. Open Design, Open Innovation, Open Projects, Open Sourcing…the power of sharing, the sense of community, Co-Creation is the talent needed today!
Don Tapscott started the sessions explaining how the majority of organizations are struggling to adjust to our new world. “ Old approaches are stalled, and multi-stakeholders networks are emerging as a powerful force to fix a broken world”. He pointed out how talent used to be searched inside an organization, he talked about the power of distributing knowledge, about leadership without a leader (just think of the Arab Spring), about the individual interest in the interest of the collective. Fascinating thoughts on the challenges faced by all institutions and the need to reinvent ourselves (dontapscott.com).
Jason Silva combines filmmaking, philosophy, and a huge personality into short videos. He packs images and big thoughts in condensed concepts that TED described as shots of philosophical espresso. Exhausting, but captivating, he certainly fights the lethargy of customs (vimeo.com/jasonsilva).
Daphne Koller is a co-founder of Coursera, a great example of Open Education. Coursera offers courses of top Universities for free, which compared to other courses being freely available also includes grading and assignments! Peer Grading is part of the concept, reinforcing this notion of sharing of everything (coursera.org).
Beau Lotto is a neuroscientist who believes in Open Science and the concept of involving people from all walks of life in research. One of his projects, with a group of 8-10 years old primary school students in England, lead to the publication of the first ever peer-reviewed scientific paper written by school children (lottolab.org and the Blackawton Bees project). Amy O’Toole, one of those pupils, presented the findings – amazing.
Eddie Obeng is a business Educator who, through Pentacle, his online business school, teaches how to adapt to change. Like many of the speakers at TED, he argued that most of the best practices and assumptions we use to plan, manage and lead, are obsolete now, and that the pace of change has overtaken the pace of learning. In order to innovate, he underlines the necessity to create a constant link between learning and implementing, forming and re-forming workgroups, constantly re-evaluating metrics, being open to all kinds of learning (pentaclethevbs.com).
Ivan Krastev is a Bulgarian Public Intellectual who underlined, with intelligence and humor, how the new transparency has brought a total loss of trust in politics! He consequently wonders how democracy can flourish when mistrust of the elites is permanent, and also warned of one flip side of the web: putting together people that think the same way, that may lose their capacity to change their views, illustrated by the extremes arguments that you hear for instance in American politics just now.
Neil Harbisson’s talk was quite extraordinary. Born with the inability to see color, he wears a device on his head that allows him to “hear” colors, even those beyond the range of sight, a device he calls “eyeborg”. This personal experience has leaded him to co-create the Cyborg Foundation, whose purpose is to extend your senses through technology (harbisson.com).
Rachel Botsman spoke about the collaborative revolution and how we will move from social networking to service networking, and how trust and reputation are the key assets to have. Millions of people are renting out their homes to total strangers around the world, creating not only a new way to think of supply and demand, but also a new way to meet and connect to people. Taskrabbit.com is a great example of this collaborative approach, a site that enables you to find people that can help with shopping, sewing, delivering, even assembling your latest Ikea purchase! Next step on our Facebook profile will show our reputation capital, the capabilities, intentions, values of each person (rachelbotsman.com).
Robin Chase, the founder of Zipcar (the largest car-sharing business in the world), similarly talked of Peers Inc., a world of peer-to-peer interchange and production. She lives now in France where she created “Buzzcar”, another car-sharing service, but where it is your own car that you share, peer-to-peer rent a car.
Amy Cuddy had been told, after a severe head injury, that she would never regain fully her mental faculties. She now teaches at Harvard and talked to us about body language, about how our bodies change our mind, our mind changes our behavior and our behavior changes our outcomes. “fake it to become it” could be her motto, and how a simple quick exercise in power-pose can change an interview or a public appearance. Check her out on You Tube (Amy Cuddy Harvard Site).
Jane McGonigal is an enthusiastic game-designer who suffered a serious concussion and consequently created a game to get through it, opening it up to anyone to play. “SuperBetter” players set a goal of health or wellness, and invite others to play with them, and keep them on track (janemcgonical.com).
Heather Brooke was one of the speakers on transparency in government. As a freelance journalist she asked to see the expense reports of members of the English parliament, an effort that took four years, and eventually culminated in a scandal and the resignation of the Speaker of the House. The conclusion is that today’s growth of transparency is creating a crisis of legitimacy in government worldwide.
Marc Goodman on the other hand, scared us all, talking about the implications of technology on terrorism. It is down to a constant technological race. Just imagine how easily guns and weapons can be assembled with 3 D printers. His crime-fighting solution is in crowd sourcing. As he said: public safety is too important to be left to the professionals! (marcgoodman.net).
Becci Manson is a photo retoucher who flew to Japan after the Tsunami and organized an incredible network of worldwide volunteer retouchers to save photos that had been found all over and handed to evacuation centers. They were able in six months to hand-clean 135000 photographs with the help of over 500 volunteers around the world (rebeccamanson.com).
Kirby Ferguson was very refreshing, talking about copying, or rather remix, and the concept that everything is a remix, a transformation, a combination of things and ideas that exist already. We should not be afraid to copy, to borrow, like Dylan did with 70% of his songs taken from traditional folk songs (everythingisaremix.info).
Margaret Heffernan explored why organizations avoid conflicts, why 85% of American Executives are afraid of conflict, of getting into an argument they can’t fully defend. Innovation, she explained, involves having in your group people that contradict you. So, engage with people that are different, be prepared to change your mind, see conflict as thinking, create the right environment and understand that this is what makes organizations safer and not more dangerous. The saddest thing about CEO’s, in her opinion, is that they don’t know what’s really going on, so celebrate and reward “truth telling” (mheffernan.com).
Finally, Clay Shirky concluded that our established, centralized institutions are something of the past and that cooperation without coordination is the big change, the way communities are getting together (Shirky.com).
On a personal note, and as a baby-boomer who loves this new changing world, what TED Global showed to me again is the opportunities we all have today to participate, feel part of the planet we live in. Yes, you have to share, be less protective, more trusting and generous, but the rewards, the contacts, the learnings can be so rewarding, particularly if you find a way to combine human connection and technology.
About the author
Roger Schmid is an international expert in emotional and sensorial marketing. Mr. Schmid is trained in olfaction, and has worked around the world to create scents for fine fragrances, personal and home care products, and laundry products for over 30 years. Originally from Switzerland, Mr. Schmid grew up in Italy and now splits his time between homes in New Jersey and Paris. In 2005, Mr. Schmid founded Nose About, LLC, based in New Jersey, which is a multidisciplinary network of experts in scent and the senses.
Image © Roger Schmid