Tag Archives: TED

Will Success Spoil Ted.com?

I’ve watched dozens of TED talks online and never seen a bad one.

TED stands for Technology, Education, and Design. It started in 1984. Since 1990 it was located in a conference center outside of Monterrey CA. Since 2001 it’s been curated mainly by Chris Anderson.

Most TED conferences were amazing. I’ve never been, but what I’ve seen is a collection of excellent presentations about compelling ideas and information delivered by the best and the brightest in the world. If you’ve been reading this blog you’ve seen TED talks off and on. Since I first discovered the online TED talks at TED.com I’ve been back to that well regularly. And what I’ve found has been consistent highest quality of thought, communication, and, specifically, presentations.

For more than a dozen of my favorites, from previous posts on this blog, use this link.

So far, so good. Can anybody blame TED for wanting to branch out and expand? Not me. TED is now branching out to TEDx talks that are way less exclusive. Look around for TEDx on the web and you’ll see the TEDx talks popping up everywhere. Here’s what TED says about TEDx:

Created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading,” the TEDx program is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level. TEDx events are fully planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis.

In theory that’s great, but what if the end result is that TED talk no longer means guarantee of high quality? I hope the TED tradition continues. But here’s the concern I have:  Does that mean dilution of quality? A lower bar? More people presenting to more people on more subjects in many more locations?

TED says that 231 TEDx conferences were held last month.

And meanwhile, just to make that a bit more real, this morning I clicked a TEDx link in my email to end up with this disappointing result:

Truth, Magic, Stories, and the Digital Campfire

Do yourself a favor and watch Marco Tempest on this brilliant six-minute TED video. If you don’t see it here, use this link to go to the TED site to watch it. After you’re done, I’d like to tell two true stories that seem somehow related. And before the video, I want to highlight some quotes from it. First:

Experts believe that stories go beyond their capacity for keeping us entertained. We think in narrative structures. We connect events and emotions and instinctively transform them into a sequence that can be easily understood. It’s a uniquely human achievement.

And second, Marco’s delightful definition of social networking, as…

… the digital campfires around which the audience gathers to hear our stories. We turn facts into similes and metaphors and even fantasies. We polish our affections of our lives so that they feel whole. Our stories make us the people we are, and sometimes, the people we want to be. They give us our identity and a sense of community.

And from there, two true stories:

  1. In the late 1990s there was a business plan that won almost a quarter of a million dollars in MBA-level business plan competitions that was a fictional exercise, using real people, presenting a technology that sounded plausible but didn’t exist. The contestants who submitted and pitched the plan had no intention of ever launching the company it described. They wanted to win business plan contests. And they did.
  2. I once witnessed overwhelming, loud, bawling, personal-loss kind of grief, so all-encompassing that nobody else in a carful of people could talk, over the death of a fictional character is a movie.

And I think that if you watch this TED talk, you’ll see how these two little stories are related.

The Hidden Power of Smiling

So it’s Friday today, at least it is where I am. Let’s all pause and smile. We can’t always be about business planning and entrepreneurship and small business. Life matters too.

Amazing facts, all from the video embedded here:

  • The width of a random smile correlates with the length of life;
  • A single smile can give you as much energy as 1,000 bars of chocolate.
  • Children smile on average about 400 times a day. Adults smile on average only about 15.

Those are just quick tidbits of research and advice shared by Ron Gutman in this 7-minute TED talk:

In case you can’t see it here, you can click here for the original on the TED.com site.

Big Problem: We Don’t Know We’re Wrong Until Later

You should find 17 minutes to watch this TED talk by Kathryn Schulz, “wrongologist,” author of the book Being Wrong, in this TED talk called On Being Wrong.

We know, intellectually, that we’re sometimes wrong. Of course we make mistakes. But when we’re wrong, while we’re wrong, we don’t know it. She says:

It does feel like something to be wrong. It feels like being right. I call this error blindness.

We’re taught, she says, that getting something wrong means there’s something wrong with us. We’re conditioned.

But here’s a real problem:

Trusting too much in the feeling of being on the correct side of anything can be very dangerous. This internal sense of rightness that we all experience and feel so often is not a reliable guide to what is actually going on in the external world.  And when we act like it is, when we stop entertaining the possibility that we could be wrong …. this is a huge practical problem, but it’s also a huge social problem.

So what do we think when someone disagrees with us?

  1. They are ignorant
  2. Or they are idiots
  3. Or they are evil

So our thinking we’re right causes all kinds of problems. It keeps us from preventing mistakes when we need to, and it helps us to treat each other terribly.  She suggests this one:

The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is; it’s that you can see the world as it isn’t.

This talk builds steadily upwards. I love her quote from St. Augustine: “I err, therefore I am.” And she talks about how being wrong leads to great ideas, art, stories, and, ultimately, being human.  We love being wrong in stories. And she comes to a very strong finish, that I won’t spoil here, but I will say, you should spend these 17 minutes.

And just in case you don’t see it here on the site, or if you’d rather watch it in a larger view, here’s the link back to the original: Kathryn Schulz: On being wrong | Video on TED.com.

The Beauty Of Data Visualization

I really like business charts. I think I always have. I’ve been in the business of communicating about numbers for a long time. And here is a master of it. David McCandless, a British journalist, also calls himself “a data detective,” and we see why in his Ted talk shown here, The Beauty Of Data Visualization.

This is spectacular thinking. Watch for his visual patterns of fear, of global spending, even of relationships breaking up.

If for any reason you can’t see this here, you can click here for the source on the TED.com site.

On the Value of Good Computer Games

My thanks to Chris Brogan for posting Games and Fun on his blog this morning, linking to Jane McGonical’s Gaming Can Make a Better World video on TED.com (embedded below).

In his post, Chris says:

Forget the rest of my blog post and just watch this. Ask yourself whether or not you could make more fun and more games out of what we all do for a living.

Which reminds me that I think some kinds of games are great teachers. I’m very grateful that I spent a lot of time as a kid playing strategy games, particularly the Avalon-Hill strategy games that took hours and involved lots of cardboard pieces on maps. I played that one forward with my own kids, in a sense, by spending time with them on computer strategy games, most notably Age of Empires. I think a good game is a powerful lesson. Especially when it’s fun.

I should add, though, that I’m talking here about good games. The strategy games teach. And a lot of other types of games are quietly teaching while doing. Think of the word games, puzzle games, role playing games. Take a look at Civilization, the game.

And I have to add that I’m definitely not saying all computer games are good for anybody. Obviously. There are a lot of computer games out there that are mind numbing or (think shoot-em-up) worse. In my opinion.

Our Children Spread Their Dreams Under Our Feet. We Should Tread Softly.

This less-than-17-minute talk was posted on the TED ideas worth spreading site just a week or so ago. I think every one of us should take 17 minutes off and listen to this, and think about it. It’s funny. It’s interesting. And it’s important.

Sir Ken Robinson starts with a reference to global climate change, a big problem, hard to embrace because there’s so little any individual can do. He jumps to a global education crisis, which strikes me as just as big, and just as hard to embrace. That’s sad. I hope I’m wrong. He implies, at least, that we might be able to change this for the better. I hope he’s right.

Some interesting quotes:

  • A three-year old is not half a six-year old.
  • We have built our education system on the model of fast food.
  • If you’re doing something you love, an hour feels like five minutes. If you’re doing something that doesn’t resonate with your spirit, five minutes feels like an hour.
  • The reason so many people are opting out of education is because it doesn’t feed their spirit. It doesn’t feed their energy or their passion.
  • We have to change metaphors. We have to go from an industrial model of education, a manufacturing model, which is based on linearity and conformity and batching people, to a model based more on principals of agriculture. Human flourishing is not a mechanical process, it’s an organic process.

I love his ending. He finishes quoting a William B. Yeats poem, which ends: “Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.”

And he (the speaker, not the poet) concludes:

And every day, everywhere, our children spread their dreams under our feet. And we should tread softly.

Morals, Humanity, Liberals, and Conservatives

I was browsing the TED.com site the other day and stumbled upon this fascinating 18-minute talk on what divides liberals and conservatives, from a very deep psychological research point of view. It’s interesting to me how relevant this is on the long term, even after the cacophony of the last presidential elections.

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt summarizes research into (among other things) five very deep cross-cultural moral fundamentals that seem to show up in humans throughout history. And how these seem to track across political and ethical views.

This isn’t strictly speaking topical; it’s from before the last election. But I found, reading it last night, that it is as topical as ever.

While I try not to get into politics often, at least not on this blog, I’m impressed by the way he finds common ground on both sides, and wisdom in bringing ourselves together, rather than apart. That’s a compelling message.

It’s not hard to watch this right up to the end, because it’s fascinating from the beginning. But that message at the end makes it even more valuable.