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TED University & Institute Notes by Ann Treacy
June 19, 2013, 8:20 pm
Filed under: Edinburgh

I wanted to take (and save) notes from the TED Global conference. They might not be of interest to anyone but me, but now I’ll know where to find them and I’ll post the rest as I write them up. Right now I have the “pre-conference” session notes…

Pre-Conference Workshop: Taming Wicked Problems

Tom Wujec, from Autodesk, gave two presentations on Wicked Problems – the interactive morning session and he spoke as part of the TED Institute. He works with companies on their “wicked problems,” which are simply problems that are difficult to tackle, multifaceted and ongoing. Normally he offers the session as a 3-day workshop or works intensely with an organization over a period of time through his process of taming the problems. The key is defining the problems and working together to create a solution – a solution that doesn’t necessarily fix the problem but tames it. His solution is very visual.

We started in teams. Each of drew instructions for making toast. The we (silently) grouped our images and organized our images to use the best from each team member to provide instructions for making toast. It was interesting to see where people started (making the bread, slicing, buying the toaster, maybe building a fire) and what they focused on (the toaster, the toast or the person). No one was right or wrong but there were a lot of approaches. Then in teams we set out to tackle real world wicked problems.

It was interesting to see how well it worked. The key was the visual approach, the silent cooperation and the process of working together.

Tom also spoke about the design continuum: Ideas go from impossible to impractical to possible to expected to required.

TED Institute

Tokunbo Ajasa-Oluwa – Go ThinkBig

Tokunbo is a former journalist and HEAD OF Go ThinkBig that encourages young people to do well and do good. He build mentorships with young people at risk to help them get ahead and build their own connections that will help them succeed and make things happen. Couple of points

  • Young people will do tirelessly
  • Digital tools open quality education to everyone
  • If every enterprise in the UK employed one young person it would eradicated youth unemployment

Kate Groch – Bush Schools

Kate works has built digital learning centers across rural South Africa. She started by turning a banana factory into an ICT that serves 200 adults and 450 school children. Stressing that technology is not enough, Kate talked about how they have transitioned from meeting in small groups under trees to encouraging small groups to meet via telepresence. It’s been a good way for folks to connect, communicate and get used to the technology. A powerful message from the ICTs in the rural areas was the shift for the residents from “chance to choice.” It used to be if you were born in rural South Africa your opportunities were few. Now if you have access to the learning centers, you have a choice to go to school, to learn, to meet people from around the world. Technology has removed the possibility of being born in the wrong place.

Phillipe Schulz – Renault-Nissan

Phillippe is working to accelerate the transport revolution from the inside. He develops cars that minimize use and need for oil. He points out that in 15 years 70 percent of the world’s population will be urban and offers three reasons we need to work faster to reduce dependence on oil:

  1. To avoid an environmental disaster
  2. For the economy
  3. Oil is a finite resource

Mahadev Raman

Mahadev spoke about the comfort equation – which is 20-25 degrees Celsius with a humidity of 30-70 percent. He talks about the energy wasted trying to maintain that comfort zone around the world in places that may or may not hold people. For example the futility of keeping airports set to comfort equation 24 hours a day when few people are visiting airports in the off hours. They key is better design, smart thermostats and a little bit of common sense and sacrifice – often means small steps such as put on a sweater.

Jeremy Betham

Jeremy works for Shell and talked about his idea of “building memories for the future,” which to me sounded like higher order daydreaming with a purpose – or scenario planning. In the example of Shell, it’s a matter of looking at how human needs and infrastructure are entwined in alarming ways and finding ways to make that productive. On a community level is takes business civic society and government to work together to challenge themselves, put themselves in tight spot and come up with solutions that suit the memories we want for the future.

Chris Perretta

Chris leads technology efforts for State Street. He recognizes that technology is changing the way we do technology – and that the changing that are happening within IT today are changes that will trickle to other fields and departments tomorrow. We need people who can handle these changes, which means we need people who think deeply and wide – people who can understand a whole system because when you understand the whole system you see value where no one else can see value.

Jennifer Healey

Jennifer was a spokesperson for personal ownership of your digital footprint. She chastised the privacy policies that no one reads pointing out that we are giving out a lot of information about ourselves for very little in return. Part of the problem is that right now access to personal digital information is an all or nothing proposition. There are times when you might be OK with sharing your personal data (from buying history to contacts) when the return is worthwhile – but access to the latest game app might not be it. People need the power to be able to manage and negotiate with their own personal, digital data.

TED University

Sheryl Connelly- How to Take in TED

Sheryl talked about the Art of Listening and Taking notes. She offered 5 suggestions for getting the most out of a TED conference:

  1. Give it your all
  2. Take notes
  3. Be open to new possibilities
  4. Challenge yourself
  5. Savor every moment

Peter Doolittle – The Way People Remember

Working memory works by storing – retrieving – processing based on goals. Building a strong working memory is helpful for telling stories and communicating. Generally we can remember 4 things for up to 10-20 seconds but there are some tips to improve working memory. Process immediately by thinking and repeating. Think in images. Build structure and support for new ideas.

Paul Kemp-Robertson – New currencies

Technology is disrupting our trust in money. Trust n technology trumps trust in institutions:

  • 61 percent trust “people like me”
  • 43 percent trust CEOs
  • 38 percent trust government

Drug dealers are now using Tide (yes the detergent!) as currency. Nike community is starting to build a community based on points earned via calories burned in the shoes. In Africa Vodaphone credit is money (FAKKA). BITCOIN is the fastest growing currency. It is a virtual currency earned by accomplishing math challenges.

Ted Gourneios – I’m Elmo and I know it

From Rollins College Ted reminds us that the digital revolution is brought to us by people like you! We don’t just watch media anymore, we live it.

Winka Dubbledam – Bottom-up urban design for Bogota

Bottom-up renewal for a community requires intrinsic motivation. Bogota has used MyIdealCity.com to help spur and channel bottom-up renewal and civic society. The site is a community portal that engages residents is regular conversation – and topics big and small. But it has also given birth to a crowdfunding project that funded a 66 story building in the city. They appealed to resident (although there were few inner-city residents), commuters and potential friends of the area as well. One push is to create a space that will attract residents.

Solofa Batterjee – A unique father-daughter relationship

Solofa shared lessons she learned from her father

  • If you don’t know the difference between pleasure and joy than you haven’t lived
  • Be shy as a woman, but brave as a man
  • Even the sky is not your limit
  • Women are raising the next generation of women
  • Philanthropy is our top job
  • Believe in justice

Yana Buhrer Tavanier – Don’t discount the uncounted

There are inhumane conditions in institutions, such as orphanages. Adequate healthcare would save lives in many of these institutions and love can bring a child back from the brink of neglect.

Julian Treasure – The most powerful sound in the world

Julian offers the 7 deadly sins of speaking:

  1. Gossip
  2. Judging
  3. Negativity
  4. Complaining
  5. Excuses
  6. Exaggeration
  7. Dogmatism

Instead remember HAIL – honesty, authenticity, integrity and love

Sunny Bates – How to meet people at TED

Sunny offers tips to meeting people through GRACE

  • Generosity
  • Rescue
  • Attention
  • Confidence
  • Exact
  • Serendipity

Xavier Vilalta – Designing for emerging economies

Xavier showed his building design for emerging communities- which means using materials that make sense for the environment and a blueprint that mimics those currently found in the economy. So if the economy is based on a market of stalls now – don’t build for department store in the future.

Arzu Coltekin – Three generations of Turkish Women

Introduces the novel idea that women are people and Turkish women vary as in looks and attitudes as women all over the world.

Roberto & Francesca D’Angleo – Parenting our Exceptional Son

Talk about overcoming the challenges of having a child with special needs. Through the challenge they learned to turn the challenge into an opportunity. They tried to teach their son through repetition of action and realized the son wasn’t watching the action; the son was watching them. So they started bringing him everywhere as you might with any non-exceptional child.

Jane McGonigal – My Favorite Game

Jane introduced the audience to Massively Multiplayer Thumb Wrestling. Developed by monochrome, it is exactly what it sounds like – lots of people thumb wrestling each other simultaneously. She got the whole audience to play. (I won one of two games and am now considered a Grand Master!)

Juliana Rotich – Designing Digital Products for Local Needs

Juliana works with Africa on the Edge. She has been working on fiber throughout Africa but one of the very local problems is access to power as much as access to the Internet. SO they are users of BRCK, a tool developed by TED Fellow Eric Hersman that acts like a hub providing access to wireless Internet and storing power to act as back up when local power goes down. BRCK does load balancing for the community/ICT and can act as an on ramp for things if the wireless is used to monitor or otherwise remotely control appliances.

Bastian Schaefer – A 3D-Printed Jumbo Jet?

Introduced plans for the next airbus with a focus on light, mimicking a living organism and end user comfort. Part of the plan assumes use of a 3D printer to replace milling.

Margaret Heffernan – Don’t Stay Silent

I have to mention that Margaret was one of my very favorite speakers last year – on a related topic. (And rumor has it she’ll be in the Twin Cities for an event with The Wilder Foundation.) What I really like about her is the push to say something when you know something is askew. She mentions that silence is often more articulate than what’s being said. To coax out the meaning we need to learn to ask small questions – such as “Does anyone know anything about…” The idea is to explore ideas and options and to build allies.


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