My TED Takes

Recently, I traveled to Vancouver Canada to attend the “big” TED, as people who have been to the other TED conferences call it.

My brain is still in recovery mode from processing all of the talks, experiences, discussions and new friends during a week of 16 hour-days. Yet it was exhilarating to have so many conversations and to watch more than 70 TED talks live. My biggest insight as the week unfolded, is that I could begin to envision a picture of the world to come. A world with hopes and fears, but one where we can create new options to solve previously entrenched problems.

You can find great summaries of each day and talks at, but I would like to share the top 7 talks that inspired me the most, and the questions that they raised.

  1. The speech from former Vice President Al Gore was both discouraging – new weather patterns and catastrophes demonstrate that the climate is changing – and hopeful, as world leaders and the economy of scale are aligned to make more realistic moves to alternative energies, such as solar and wind. As with the cellular phones industries in recent years, what is interesting is the potential to countries where people who currently have no access to the grid, to “leap-frog” and get access to solar energy without the need of building a grid.
    • How might we help fasten the pace of change to minimize the impact on our planet?
  2. The GoogleX approach to finding new radical solutions is focused on identifying “Moonshot projects”. In his talk, scientist/entrepreneur Astro Teller explained how they select these moonshot projects looking at the intersection of a huge problem, possible breakthrough technology and a radical solution. Work on moonshot projects is prioritized to focus on the most difficult parts first, since they are more likely to kill the project. Rewards are aligned with this approach, so that team members are rewarded for killing ideas: this helps to ensure that the ideas that move forward may indeed be feasible. You can check the amazing project Loon where Google X may be able to provide balloons powered internet in remote areas with currently no access.
    • How may this approach assist your organization in developing bold ideas?
  3. Dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones presented an amazing merger of dance while story telling. I have seen a lot of dance in my life, but never with the same intensity as when Bill T. Jones added four different stories (some very personal) to the same basic dance movements, creating an ever changing and poignant experience for the audience. Watch for the TED talk when it is out!
    • How does telling a different story around the same theme might affect your outcome?
  4. Sarah Parcak, an archeologist who won the TED prize this year, uses digital images to discover new exploration sites, but with a goal to use her prize to help protect from looting, using a crowd based platform
    • How might we use the power of crowd sourcing for a better good?
  5. The presentation by Tshering Togbay, prime minister of Bhutan, told the story of how Bhutan is committed to remain carbon neutral (or negative) by writing within the constitution itself, that 60% of the land should stay as forest cover, and making Growth Development Happiness a key measure of success for the country.  “Growth National Happiness is development with value,” said the 5th King of Bhutan. (video)
    • How might this approach apply to other countries or organizations?
  6. Gene editing using CRISPR, presented by writer Jennifer Kahn, highlighted both the hope that this approach could eliminate all mosquitoes that carry Zika, Malaria and Yellow Fever in short order, by editing their gene to eliminate one gender. She also addressed the challenges and negative by-products (bio-terrorism and manipulations) that these technologies present. She concluded by asking what may happen when we are able to change species at will.
    • Will ethics win over greed?
  7. Finally professor Alexander Betts offered alternate ways to resolve our global refugee problem by challenging some common assumptions. He proposed how refugees can live in better harmony with the community they are integrating into. They often bring needed skills, as many refugees, particularly in Europe, are well educated. There is a need to create a humanitarian visa for refugees, that could be obtained before they leave their home country, so that they can travel directly to a destination that would accept them, rather than on dangerous journeys to a place they may not get in. He encourages a matching system (think where people would go where they are wanted.
    • How might we remove assumptions to focus on solving the real problems?

So, will humanity prevail?

Interested in learning more about creativity and innovation?

Here are some conferences related to creativity and innovation you may consider:

  • Creativity Counter Conference organized by Fast Company in LA on May 24 and 25: appears to be a very experiential conference
  • Creativity Expert Exchange organized by the International Center from Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State. It is where the experts meet (mostly alumni of the center but open to all experts)  June 11-13 I will be there and we have an amazing set of speakers and events this year!
  • CPSI, a hand-on learning conference for those interested in learning more about creativity, in Buffalo June 14-19