TEDxSummit was held to connect and work on the strategic direction of the TEDx community and to grow TEDx globally. For those that do not know, TED is a global nonprofit organization devoted to ‘ideas worth spreading’. (See this clip here for 77 second crash course) TED started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds that were starting to converge: technology, entertainment and design. Fast track 25 years and you will find yourself shifting through 2009, and the year TED launched TEDx, an initiative encouraging communities, organizations and individuals around the world to gather and organize their own TED-like events to further ‘ideas worth spreading’. Since inception, over 4000 TEDx events have taken place in 1 100 cities, in 129 countries. Growing fast! It was this phenomenal growth in only three years that sparked off the need for the TEDx Summit. The impetus for the Summit was to expand the global reach of the TEDx community, shifting the ‘X’ from representing ‘independently organized event’ to ‘the power of x‘. Attendees engaged in three days of workshops to share best practices, learnings, innovations and failures, and collectively shape the future of the TEDx platform. But before we dived in and worked on the direction of TEDx going forward, we needed to figure out exactly what TEDx is and why it grew at the rate it did. There was never really one answer to this. I found this fascinating. TED had set out clear guidelines within which TEDx organizers must operate. But that’s all. They had really just set the parameters and then left the community to self-regulate and grow in any direction. You may not think this is of any significance. But imagine being the custodian of TED, potentially the most influential brand in the world and letting it reign free for high-impact over achievers around the globe to run with and drive in whatever direction they believed fit. But it is THIS openness and freedom that has resulted in the impact of TEDx, as each organizer can leverage the brand and attune their event to the relevance of their community. And from this, create true value which fuels the growth of TEDx as their communities and markets keep being inspired and wanting more. And from this, an amazing environment/ecosystem arose..now to take these learning’s beyond TED… …I can write pages and pages but there are two major learnings from the summit which I would like to share with you. 1) Community of likeminded changemakers There is an extremely strong connection between like-minded individuals. To the extent that you feel closer to them than your neighbour back home. For me, these like-minded individuals all believe in the power to follow their passion, and that they can change the world by doing
so. This is more than words or something they just think about. They BELIEVE this. Furthermore, there is a sense of ‘sandpit’ that is TEDx. A space to play, a space to fail and have fun. This space encourages creativity, experimentation and learning as you go. And many that I met at TEDx embody this, which is no wonder why so many of them are doing such phenomenal things in this world! The true significance of this, is that it is a mindset. And this mindset can be held by anyone and everyone… But we as a society need to allow for this. For me personally, my dream is to see everyone in this world following their passion, and adopting this mindset. And this mindset is entrepreneurship. Which is not about seeing how much money you can make or being the best, but following your passion and turning your dreams into reality. There are key learning curves that one goes through in their entrepreneurial endeavors, but these can be learnt and experienced by anyone. And society can create an environment conducive to this. Rather than what we find today, where resources and opportunities are taught to be viewed as finite and environments conducive to dreaming, trying and failing are found in the playground and must be left behind when at work. And no, this isn’t me just wondering off in my own dreams. I also got a real sense that this growing TEDx community is proof that this mindset can be expanded and that with time, more and more people will be becoming aware of the power of the human mind and ability to live within this paradigm that the TED/TEDx community finds themselves immersed in, and in doing so, realize that you can shift between paradigms at any stage if you decide to. 2) Closer relationship to individuals and not regions Leading on from the point I raised above. We live in a globally connected world where information has no borders and communication can take place in real-time. Furthermore, technologies have been developed to assist collaborative working arrangements and communication channels. So when likeminded people connect, they can more easily take action, together. There is clearly a shift towards connecting talents that have a common understanding and end goal. Those I related to best were the South Americans, and others from the UK and Europe. South America becuase they’re also an emerging market and they seem to be dealing with similar opportunities that we’re (South Africa) facing. And from an entrepreneurial perspective, their innovation/startup scene is at a similar stage (maturity) to that of South Africa e.g Brasil has only recently seen the rise of their first angel network, much like SA. And then UK/Europe, as they were phenomenal minds thinking globally, with a drive to change the world at a pace I only see in hyper-competitive markets fueled by ambitious and passionate minds. This also makes me rethink patriatism, and it’s importance. Will you achieve greater impact by remaining in an environment you understand or in an environment that understands you? An example was Juan Enriquez from Mexico, who I was fortunate enough to have lunch with and who gave a TED talk on one of the evenings: ‘The Next Human Species’. It was mind blowing! He has an amazing mind and is really working on the edge of science and technology, but what I found most interesting was his comments around working in Boston, USA as apposed to remaining in Mexico, where he was born and had an affinity to. And his comment was that there is no other place like Boston for the industry he operates in (Biotech) and working in an environment where others understand the way you think and being surrounded by other like-minded inviduals compounds your thinking and efforts and propels your own efforts forward. Much more so, than if you did not have this like-minded support group and knowledge sharing taking place.