Big Ideas from TED 1.0
This past week I had the amazing opportunity to represent American Express at the TED Conference, one of the most important annual conferences focused on Technology, Entertainment and Design. The tagline of the conference is “Ideas worth spreading”, and during each presenter’s 18 minute talk the intent is to articulate such an idea.
Although there were many fantastic ideas shared in the conference, including the audience favorite – a talk about social injustice by Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative that led to over $1MM in on-the-spot contributions to his cause, I wanted to focus one major theme that emerged at the event – human networks.
TED held an entire session around “the crowd”, or the idea that there is huge potential in the ability to use technology to tap into our collective people power.
Lior Zoref actually used his social networks to develop and edit his presentation – acting as a bit of a curator of a speech that was developed by many. During the speech he brought a massive ox onto stage and demonstrated the power of many by having everyone submit a guess on the ox’s weight via his or her smartphones. At the end of his presentation he communicated the result, which was only 2 pounds off the actual weight of the ox.
Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and investor in network-driven companies such as Airbnb, Groupon, Shopkick and Zynga discussed his concept of “Network Literacy”. Reid discussed that in the new world it is important to not only be involved in personal networks, but to be astute and leverage these networks effectively. He identified four components driving network literacy; network technology, network identity, understanding network information and network capabilities. This is one of the central themes of his book “The Start-up of You”.
Jim Hake told a great story of a company that he started to help our soldiers overseas. His business, Spirit of America, allows soldiers in the field who see an opportunity to help communities in which they are working to submit a funding request, which will then obtain funding via crowdsourcing – essentially leveraging ideas from Kickstarter and Kiva to save American lives and build bonds with the communities we are helping.
Finally, each year TED awards a significant monetary prize to a single individual with an idea to help realize the vision. This year, there was no individual recipient – instead they awarded the prize to the idea of City 2.0. The idea is to help each city leverage its collective resources and knowledge to do great things. The cornerstone of the project is a website thecity2.org, where people can initiate projects, help get resources and people and use the collective power of the individuals within the community to help cities move forward.
On a personal level though, I discovered that tapping into my Facebook network can give me answers I am unable to find elsewhere – such as how to get my new puppy to walk down a noisy Brooklyn street. When I posted the question to my friends I received six responses, nearly all of them sarcastic and of no real help. I guess that proves the importance of having not only quantity, but more importantly quality in your network!
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