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Posts Tagged ‘intersection’

The serendipity of TED

March 4th, 2011

I’m at the last day of the TED ’11 conference in Long Beach, CA.  Many friends have asked me about TED over the years: what’s it like? who goes? how do you get in?. This is my fifth – and there are many “TEDsters” here that have come far more times than me.  I find the Serendipity of TED to be an interesting topic…

Gratitude for Wurman and Anderson

I’m grateful for what Richard Saul Wurman created in 1984 – the early TEDs took place in Monterey, in a fairly intimate setting, with just a few hundred people…and equally as grateful to Chris Anderson, who’s non-profit entity acquired TED in 2001 and has turned it into a global media brand.  Grateful for amazing connections, great content, and vibe.  TED now has conferences throughout the year:  the big event in Long Beach (from which I am posting), the TEDGlobal in summer – now moving to Scotland, and over a THOUSAND TEDx events throughout the world – in every imaginable country – over the past few years.  The website is one of the best video content sites on the web, boasting hundreds of high-quality videos of “Ideas Worth Spreading”…

Ideas Worth Spreading

Ideas are just ideas, unless they do spread to the right minds, hearts and activists. And that’s where the magic of TED seems to work and continue to grow.

TED 2011 Main Lobby

Here at the TED conference, I survey the outside hall:  to my left Al Gore is standing and conversing with a group of repeat TEDsters, behind him Vinod Khosla holding court, with daughter (who presented this year at TED) next to him, and behind me Jason Mraz, musician (who was incredible last night on stage) walking by with his friend/partner in trademark fedora.  Beyond them, scores of venture capitalists that I recognize from the Silicon Valley mingle with 20ish looking young men in jeans and sneakers.  Sitting on the stairs, the founder of Amazon, with family in tote.  Chris Anderson, holding hands with wife, Jacqueline Novogratz (CEO of Acumend Funds).  Off in far corners of the room, scores of creative people mingle, talk excitedly about art, science, music, mother-in-laws and raising kids.   This is a typical scene for TED.

This year’s TedEd talks, held on Mon, Tues and Thurs mornings were short 5 min talks – and many were fascinating. The topics went from How to MindMap a TED talk (by Nina Khosla) to genomes on the Internet (by friend, Jim Hornthal) to the Hoax of State Budgets (Bill Gates).  This short-form talks are a great way for a wide variety of TEDsters to show off another unique aspect of TED:  the diversity of participants from teens to baby-boomers, from scientists to musicians.

The scene not only creates viral spread of ideas, but so does the website, which is available for free to anyone in the world? Missed a session? Look it up on TED within 3 months and you’ll likely find it.  In the future, TED will be broadcast in many companies (their latest endeavor) around the world simultaneously to the live event – so thousands of viewers can watch live, even though at a distance.  That creates more spread.

Sweet Serendipity

What makes this all worthwhile for these folks to shell out $7500 (plus hotel, flights, food) each year?  Serendipity, most likely. At TED, one sets oneself up for that serendipitous moment…a “TEDEd lecture earlier this week by author John Hagel emphasized that serendipity can actually be encouraged, planned for and enhanced.  TED is the ultimate example of this.  The serendipitous moments come when you sit down in the 2000-person auditorium next to the founder of Twitter (as I did yesterday),  or grab coffee and run into someone you’ve followed on Twitter (@aplusk) for a pleasant conversation on the state of Angel Investing…

But, here at TED, serendipity doesn’t seem to be simple luck.  Although the event has reaching proportions that sometimes make you feel like you are at a large trade show party (last night’s party for example, featured a 30-foot puppet and hanging gymnists), the event is set up to allow for interactions, exchanges, and lots of causual “bumping into”.  The five days quickly blend into a blur of great conversations with highly creative people, people who are here to learn and to meet others, many who come with open minds.

At the Intersection

I think what TED represents best is an “intersection” of creative thinking from around the world.  Movie stars, venture capitalists, engineers, singers, adventurers, scientists, mathematicians, CEOs – all in one place – all with expertise in some area, but open  mind to BLEND their expertise with other “ideas worth spreading”.  This is very much like the

Musician & friend, Jason Mraz on stage, Thurs

experience that the Medici Family created in 15th century Florence when they brought together groups of this nature.  So, think of TED as the traveling/virtual equivalent of Firenze.

TED has been a great experience for me over the years…nearly each time I have come, I’ve developed relationships that have been long-lasting, career-changing.  Two of my greatest triumphs and failures have come from relationships with well-known TED speakers that were made here at the conference:  one led to the biggest return in the history of my venture work, another led to less-than-successful (nonetheless interesting) start-up which caused me to question who I really am.  That’s the thing about TED, the serendipitous moments that are created by the intersection of so many wonder-filled people,

The Beatles – Innovation & The Medici Effect

May 23rd, 2010

Anyone out there have a thing for the Beatles?

OK…I’ll admit I’ve been a fan of the “Fab 4″ since my high-school days in Leonia, NJ.  Maybe “fan” is too light a term.

And, having just spent the past 2 days touring Liverpool (I described it to friends and family as my “Pilgrimage to Mecca”) and reading Jonathan Gould’s 2007 book Can’t Buy Me Love, I’m thinking about what turned the Beatles and  “Beatlemania” into the biggest musical sensation of the 20th Century.  What was the spark of creativity that allowed these four tocreate their own style out of the Liverpool “beat” scene?

Liverpool in 1962 was like Florence in 1452?

I think I have some answers after exploring Liverpool, learning about it’s history, going through the Beatles Experience/Story (museum) and reading Gould’s book.  Liverpool became a modern-day musical version of Florence of the 15th Century.  Liverpool emerged emerged out of no-where, as the newIntersection of rock-and-roll, “beat” music and new attitudes and it was the Beatles that turned creativity into  innovation – invoking  a new style of music that was different from anything else the world had heard before…and as a result, the Beatles catapulted to stardom unlike any other band before or after it. 

How did this happen?

Liverpool has held a reputation – even before WWII – as a blue-collar, rough-and-tumble town.  (although I found it actually quite gentrified when I visited this week).  As primarily a shipping port after WWII the city was also  far smaller, more blue-collar and far less “metropolitan”  than London.  At the time John Winston Lennon, James Paul McCartney, Richard Starkey (Ringo Starr) and George Harrison met , Liverpool was well-known for it’s territory-based teenage gangs – and although they weren’t as troublesome as today’s street gangs, they tended to grow and thrive in small groups – competing with one another for neighborhood supremacy.  These mini “city-states” as it were had another interesting characteristic that was found in Florence of the 1500s – they were quite DIVERSE.  The city, more than the average city in Europe was a melting pot of Gaelic, Scottish, Welsh, Irish and English – and the Irish and Welsh are know for their singing abilities. Thus was born a minor “warfare” between opposing gangs to see who could produce the most “new age” music of the time – and that music which emerged was called “Beat” music.

Diversity, as it turns out is the major theme of Frans Johansson‘s work The Medici Effect, in which he describes the creative results of highly diverse cities or groups of people.  I talk about the Medici Effect in a prior post on Intersection, Medici Effect and Creativity. The melting pot of Liverpool created this same kind of diversity for music and entertainment.

While Liverpool was diverse in its musical talent, it’s people and its neighborhoods, it wasn’t completely immune to changes taking place in the world.  Elvis Presley, a hero of Lennon and McCartney, had risen to global fame just 2 years previously.  Little Richard was also admired and studied by the Beatles, as were many other rhythm and blues singers (mostly American) of the early 1960s.

In 1961 and 1962, the Band played extensively in Hamburg, Germany – another melting pot of musical talents from around the world. The Beatles, though, were able to create something new from existing elements.  It was the combination of their own local British  music known as “Beat” music, with what they learned in Hamburg watching others, and combined with a look and feel that their manager (Brian Epstein) brought to them (hair styles consistent mop-style hair, the “group” feel enhanced by one “mod suit uniform for each).

It is uncertain whether fan hysteria brought the Beatles to life, or whether their music and attitudes did the trick.  Whatever the reason, the Creativity and Innovation by this one group of four men still four lasts decades after their 1970 split.  I even find that my own children, Millenials every last one of them, know and recognize Beatles music.  What other groups in the history of rock and roll can claim this much of a renaissance and this long of a lasting impression on generations of music-lovers?

I’d like to hear your opinion….

Hey, what’s the Big Idea?

January 5th, 2010

How many times have you read a good book and thought to yourself “That’s a good idea, I should apply that to my own life“….but invariably you did NOT apply it to your life because you had no specific way to do so, or you forgot, or you were just too lazy to do so?

Big Ideas in Short Bites

Brian Johnson probably had these thoughts too, but he decided to do something about it…so he’s spent the past 18 months (much of it in Bali – SWEET!) reading his selection of the Top 101 books of all time in philosophy, self-help, business/leadership, and spirituality…and created short compendium notes (think: “cliff notes with actionable items”) of the best-loved books of all time.

Want to apply principles of Dale Carnegie, Tony Robbins, Mihaly Csikszentmihayi or Don Miguel Ruiz to your life? Then go get the overviews at PhilosophersNotes , sign up — and gobble up great learnings in short bites.  Brian’s made if available in written, audio and (sometimes) video versions. He’s entertaining and genuinely a nice guy :)

How Creative is this really?

For those of us who suffer from CNG (a.k.a. “Cliff Notes Guilt” as in: “I really should have read the whole book for class but I used cliff notes to get me over hump”), the question you are probably asking is “So… where is the creativity or innovation here”?

I think Brian is onto something very creative – see  this video on his latest project called “LIFE 101″

He has begun to map out the storyboard for a future book/series that will mesh together the great ideas contained in the first 101 books he’s read and reviewed.  This seems to be a creative idea that perhaps others have thought of, but has any one single (other than a book reviewer) actually chosen, read, digested, analyzed, and re-formulated the top 101 philosophy books? That seems useful to me.

See Brian’s blog for more on this…

From “Creativity to Innovation”

If Brian is able to create a Mash-up of the top 101 books, what is the result? Is it possible he will create new connections and intersections (see my past post on Intersectional Creativity and Mashups) that others have not seen before.  Yes, probable. The exciting thing is that by having created a forum in Philosophers Notes where others can view and take action on these books, I think he’s actually using today’s technology in a very innovative way – to turn Ideas and Creativity into actionable results.

Looking forward to Master Brian’s results in the coming year!

Where is "Creativity" found?

September 4th, 2009

One of my chief purposes in creating a course on Creativity & Entrepreneurship for UC Berkeley engineers and MBAs was to prove a point:  creative genius and innovation can be found in many aspects of the start-up or intrapreneurial venture.  It’s not just new products or services, but in my experience, you can find highly creative approaches in leadership, business model, marketing, manufacturing, sales/channel approach, financing and fund-raising.

After 12 years in the venture capital business I like to say “show me a strong Entrepreneur, and I’ll show you a highly creative thinker.”  It’s not only the nature of an entrepreneur to get creative & think differently – but it’s pretty much a REQUIREMENT – the sheer number of challenges one has to face to get a venture from concept to exit is mind-boggling these days and new challenges crop up at every turn in the process.

But where do creative concepts and approaches typically come from?

The ultimate student of management, Peter Drucker, identifies 7 sources of innovatoin in his book Innovation & Entrepreneurship, which was nicely condensed into an HBR article called “The Discipline of Innovation” (HBR 3480).  He says new ideas are found from:

(1) unexpected occurencesdrucker1
(2) incongruities
(3) process needs
(4) industry & market changes
(5) demographic changes
(6) changes in perception
(7) new knowledge

I love #1 an #2, because they are also the reason a GOOD JOKE works – the “unexpected” or “incongruent” punchline leads to a creative new outcome – which leads us to (hopefully) laugh.  In his book The Medici Effect, Frans Johanssson likes to call the place where creative thoughts occur “The Intersection.”  The intersection is the spot in your mind, or reality, where thoughts from 2 or more fields or disciplines intersect, creating a new concept or idea.

Seth Godin, founder of Squidoo and author of  numerous web and marketing books actually takes the argument in almost the OPPOSITE DIRECTION.  In a January 2009 blog post writes “For me, creativity is the stuff you do at the edges. But the edges are different for everyone, and the edges change over time.”   The edge, as in “leading edge”, means being on the fringe of a movement and demonstrating a new approach that leads the pack, which others have not yet thought of. Depending upon your own experience, the edge might look creative or it might look mundane.  Creativity is in the eye of the beholder.

Perhaps The Edge and The Intersection are quite related.

When my friend, Scott Adams (the quintiscential entrepreneur) conceptualizes a Dilbert cartoon strip over his morning coffee, his mind has the ability to pull incongruent thoughts together in unexpected ways.  Scott, who certainly seems to think at “The Edge” with his sarcastic observations of life,  creates the Dilbert cartoon strip somewhere along the  “The Intersection” of restrictive business rules and every-day life principles.

dilbert4

Hats off to all those creators and entrepreneurs – living on The Edge, driving in The Intersection, and (hopefully) enjoying The Ride.