TEDx Grand Rapids – 8 Ideas Worth Sharing

by Jennifer Miller on May 17, 2011

in Business Management, Learning

I’ve joined the ranks of TED aficionados.

Last Thursday, along with 599 other lucky people, I participated (on-site) in the first-ever TEDx event in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A TEDx event is a spin-off of the popular TED Conference. For those unfamiliar with TED, it’s a unique conference format designed around “riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world”. The TED conferences are by invitation only and are a series of brief (20 minutes max) presentations, with people from very diverse viewpoints, cultural backgrounds and vocations spreading “ideas worth sharing”. Even though the live TED events are by invitation only, anyone can benefit by viewing the videotaped presentations on the TED website.

The TEDx Grand Rapids event was inspiring and thought-provoking.  In the spirit of passing along “ideas worth sharing” here are eight ideas that grabbed me. I’ll be chewing on these for awhile to come. Perhaps they’ll inspire or provoke you as well.

1. The only way to prepare for the future is to embrace uncertainty. Futurist Sheryl Connelly works for Ford Motor Company.  She observed that the things that surprise us the most are almost always things outside of our control— tsunamis, economic collapse, terrorist acts. As a futurist, she doesn’t predict the future, but rather she actively thinks about it and explores as many alternative scenarios as possible. Uncertainty is part of life. Exploring all possibilities will help us cope with it. 

  • Who else in your life can help you think about your alternative scenarios?

2. In a video clip appearance, Chuck Saylor, founder and CEO of Izzy Plus talked about how he loved the job title “Chief Officer of Discovery”, saying that in order for creativity to flourish we must havean insatiable desire for discovery.”

  • What do we need to discover today?

3. Kids need social skills to succeed in the workforce. Mickey McManus shared how his company is working with at-risk inner city kids to help them regain the creativity that formal education has drilled out of them. He talked about how it’s important to focus on STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Math) and SEL – Social Emotional Learning.

  • How can we build SEL into our workplace?

4. Grace under pressure will never go out of style. When Jeffrey Kimpton’s slide show went blank just moments into his presentation, he gamely persevered, giving visual descriptions of his slides as he spoke. The irony was not lost on the audience: Kimpton is president of Interlochen Center for the Arts, proving once again, that the show must go on.

  • Has grace ever deserted you ? What can you learn from that situation?

5. We’re all curators. Filmmaker and author Steven Rosenbaum says that no amount of working harder or sleeping less is going to help us keep on top of mountains of data available. The only way to manage is to connect to good curators. Technology still hasn’t replaced the human mind when it comes to sorting through the clutter. The world needs thoughtful filters— and humans are still the best at figuring out what matters.

  • What topics are you best suited to curate? Who can benefit from that expertise?

6. Get on with the show. Onstage TEDx Grand Rapids host Eric O’Brien proved that a pithy two-sentence intro that whets the audience’s appetite is really all you need to set up a good speaker. 

  • In what areas of your life do you need to “get on with it?”

7. It’s OK to be the new kid on the block. West Michigan newcomer and TEDx Grand Rapids “architect” Steve Frazee gave a heart-felt, funny preso full of gratitude for the many people who made the event possible. As someone who just moved to the area 12 months ago, it’s amazing what he was able to instigate.

  • In what ways might you be holding back because you’re not the “expert” on something?

8. Prepare to be changed. Truth be told, when cyborg musician Patrick Flanagan took the stage I wasn’t really expecting a whole lot because I’m not a big fan of tech-enhanced music. However, after a mere 30 seconds of listening to his mind-bending sounds, I was sitting there completely wrapped up in Patrick’s performance. I wasn’t alone. The amazement was palpable throughout the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre. And that’s when I finally “got” was TED is all about.  It’s about the unexpected. The miraculous. It’s about reshaping the way you see something. Or connecting with someone that’s outside of your everyday life.

  • When was the last time you were amazed?

Those are my eight “aha moments” from the event. I’m so  grateful for this opportunity to pass along the “ideas worth sharing” that came from TEDx Grand Rapids. Do yourself a favor, if there’s a TEDx in your community, do your best to join in. You won’t be sorry.

May 19, 2011. Update: One of my fellow TEDx attendees Ben Rousch wrote an excellent post about ways he could have been better prepared for his TEDx experience. It’s a great reminder for anyone wanting to maximize a conference event. As a bonus, he highlights (with links) five other bloggers’ reactions to the event.

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