Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 190 – page 190

These two 2011 TEDxKC presentations from Patrick Meier and Marcin Jakubowski dramatically speak to the “radical collaboration” element of the TEDxKC theme. Each one points to the innovative possibilities when diverse people bring expertise and passion to a common cause benefiting others.

Patrick Meier – “Changing the World, One Map at a Time”

If only crowds can use the means they have to share knowledge to help others.

Only if there is a framework for them to effectively collaborate.

Patrick Meier’s 2011 TEDxKC presentation is an incredible innovative story of people collaborating to contribute, organize, and map their knowledge to help others – Haiti (after the earthquake), Libya (during the uprisings), and the Horn of Africa (famine).

Using the African-based Ushahidi platform for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping, crowdsourced maps aggregate and frame on-the-ground knowledge from many parties, providing relief and governmental agencies vital maps to improve their aid efforts.

The stories Patrick Meier shared have to be watched (and I’ll be adding the videos as they become available) to be fully appreciated. For instance, what started as an individual effort in Boston to map live tweets, pictures, and some video in the wake of the Haitian earthquake expanded (via Facebook) to volunteers in 49 countries who were translating updates from Haiti in an average of 10 minutes to update the collaborative map.

Meier’s story of radical collaboration, while not necessarily shared as one of explicit creativity, offers outstanding creative examples:

  • The creative genius of linking disparate ordinary elements to create something extraordinary.
  • The creative importance of providing a framework for others to participate successfully.
  • The marriage of humility and audacity in thinking creatively AND actually changing the world for the better, even if your world is half a world away.

I’m in complete awe of the innovative mapping tools, the creative ingenuity, and the collaborative spirit of caring in Patrick Meier’s stories.

Marcin Jakubowski – “Civilization Starter Kit”

If only people weren’t beholden to a planned obsolescence mind-set.

Only if diverse resources collaborate to be collectively smarter, wiser, and richer.

In the shortest 2011 TEDxKC talk of the evening, TED fellow and Polish-born fusion physicist Marcin Jakubowski shared an overview of his work just an hour north of Kansas City directing Open Source Ecology in developing the Global Village Construction Set. Its objective is a set of 50 open-sourced blueprints for the most important machines that allow life to exist. These construction and farming tools can be created from scratch and form what has been called a “civilization starter kit.” Essentially all the knowledge to build the machines can be captured on one DVD.

Jakubowski and the others onsite at his farm are in the midst of rapidly building prototypes for the low-cost machines (the tractor was built in 6 days). The prototype building may have been the reason for the brevity of  Jakubowskis’s innovative story since he planned to head back to continue working on the “midnight shift.”

Open Source Ecology Video

As with Patrick Meier’s presentation, it’s important to hear from Jakubowski personally to understand the passion behind the radical collaboration of ideas, technical expertise, labor, and financial support that are all part of Open Sources Ecology.

Marcin Jakubowski 2011 TEDxKC Talk

Marcin Jakubowki’s approach to this effort is an excellent example of looking at objects and processes and decomposing them into analogous pieces (i.e., the interchangeability of children’s building blocks is at the heart of using interchangeable parts across the machines).

The idea of being self-sustaining in a largely agrarian setting flies in the face of the industrial revolution. Perhaps it’s a vital strategy though to benefit those parts of the world struggling to function economically, providing a way to improve lifestyles. It seems the Open Source Ecology strategy is not so much about “back to the future” as “forward to our roots.” – Mike Brown


If you’d like to add an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on strategy, innovation, branding, social media or a variety of other topics to your event, Mike Brown is the answer. Email us at  or call 816-509-5320 to learn how Mike can get your audience members Brainzooming!

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The two TED talk video presentations by Kathryn Schulz and Eli Parser during the 2011 TEDxKC  event were related in treating transparency in thinking and how we receive and process information. They’re both featured today. Attempting to link the Kansas City presenters back to the “If only. Only if.” theme for  2011 TEDxKC, each recaps begins with my perspective on how the theme could be completed for that presenter’s talk.

Kathryn Schulz – “On Being Wrong”

If only you would understand the danger in believing you’re on the correct side of anything.
Only if you come to realize the most right you are is when suspecting you’re going to be wrong.

Kathryn Schulz’s 2011 TEDxKC talk was a video from TED 2011 all about being wrong. Schulz – a “wrongologist” – has spent five years thinking about why we misunderstand things and the insights uncovered about human nature.

Something quite evident that seemed new in the way Schulz discussed is absent a point of comparison, being wrong and being right feel the same. Her claim is we don’t tend to have internal cues about “wrongness,” but more on that later. Since people perceive themselves as correct, they have to rationalize those who disagree. Schulz offered three assumptions individuals us to deal with those who disagree:

  • The Ignorance Assumption – The person disagreeing is ignorant, and you just need to educate them.
  • The Idiot Assumption – The person disagreeing is an idiot and beyond education.
  • The Evil Assumption – The person disagreeing with you knows you’re right and is simply distorting the truth for his or her own gain.

Karen Schulz’s point is we continually expect one thing to happen and then something different happens – with both big and small events. We generate stories about how the world is going to play out and then the world astonishes us by doing something different.

This was a topic near and dear to me, and even more so after Schulz referenced a quote from St. Augustine’s “City of God” which translated to “I err, therefore I am.”  For me, that good Catholic sense of suspecting (okaying “knowing”) you’re wrong has shaped my life, attitudes and willingness to hear others out on their (even extreme) points of view. Because, to paraphrase Dennis Miller, “I’m probably wrong.”


Eli Parser – “Beware of Online Filter Bubbles”

If only algorithms realized humans don’t follow perfectly executed behaviors.
Only if people stand up and demand to know how their online information is being curated.

Eli Parser, author of “The Filter Bubble,” in a 2011 TED video talk discussed the negative implications of the web’s growing propensity to create personalized views of results. While Parser never mentioned EdgeRank by name, he did share Mark Zuckerberg’s perspective that, “A squirrel dying in your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.”

Algorithms examine your social graph to deliver content, recommendations, visuals, user experiences, schedules, etc. tailored to you. According to Eli Parser, Google employs 57 cues even when you’re not logged in to personalize your experience. Parser describes this artificial view of information as “filter bubbles,” and hints we may be surrounded by “information junk food” based on what and where we’ve clicked online in the past. He points out it’s not confined to Facebook and Google; the same phenomenon applies in varying degrees for other online content providers too.

The internet story of readily available, unfiltered information may be (I think “is”) wrong hypothesizes Parser. Rather than the Internet eliminating information gatekeepers, human gatekeepers have simply been replaced by algorithmic ones. Because of this, Parser advocates for programming civic responsibility and a sense of the public life into the algorithms so we continue to receive uncomfortable and challenging information, just as we would in looking at general offline communications.

And, based on Kathryn Schulz’s talk, we better program a lot of inaccuracy into the online algorithms as well!

– Mike Brown

If you’d like to add an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on strategy, innovation, branding, social media or a variety of other topics to your event, Mike Brown is the answer. Email us at  or call 816-509-5320 to learn how Mike can get your audience members Brainzooming!

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The 2011 TEDxKC event was Thursday, August 18, and based on the tweets and blog posts during and after, it was a tale of two TEDxKC experiences at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. For those who arrived very early and made it into the Nelson’s auditorium to see the presenters live, it was the typical idea-enriching TEDxKC experience.

For everyone else who had to view the 2011 TEDxKC event via video in an “overflow” room in the Nelson’s Bloch building, the evening was a huge disappointment poor audio / visual performance, ineffective seating, slow response to issues (which were quite apparent if you were watching the #TEDxKC hashtag), and audience defections.

A Disclaimer

Much of the rest of the week on the Brainzooming blog will feature very positive recaps of the outstanding 2011 TEDxKC program. I received my personal ticket to the 2011 TEDxKC event courtesy of VML, the primary sponsor and organizer. Having worked with VML as our agency for many years, I have a number of relationships there, and think that Mike Lundgren, who has spearheaded the Kansas City TED events, and VML have performed an incredible public service by bringing TEDx to Kansas City.

Because the TEDxKC programs have been so strong, the resulting buzz and popularity of the events have outpaced the support resources (venue, production, surrounding logistics, and activities) being applied. The challenges were not from what was happening on stage at the 2011 TEDxKC event; it’s what was happening (or wasn’t) beyond the stage that created negative sentiment this year.

The 2011 TEDxKC Experience

“Don’t Meet Me There, Beat Me There”

We’d invited several people to attend TEDxKC and arrived really early. That didn’t mean, however, we didn’t experience intra-line squabbles. A group (or groups – tough to tell because they all looked alike) of older women  hassled us several times, repeatedly accusing me of butting in line. I got the glares, the snide comments, the whispering – the whole nine yards. I guess festival seating still leads to poor behavior among older baby boomers, the same people who earned festival seating its bad rap in the 1970s.

Their reactions were ironic, because being known for working a line pretty aggressively for position, I was on my best behavior at TEDxKC, trying to play by all the rules we had been told beforehand. Amazing how mad people get when they feel you’ve invaded their $10 worth of space.

If Only Someone Would Say “Why”

The 2011 TEDxKC theme was “If only. Only if.” An intriguing theme, but one nearly unspoken from the stage. Any overarching explanation for why these presenters were chosen and some supporting context to the event was also lacking. Since TEDxKC is described (and rightly so) as a “curated” event, it would be helpful to have a perspective (delivered from the stage, contained on the lanyards, posted in the venue) that connects the theme, the presenters, and the thinking behind the program’s design. Maybe it’s in the iPhone app introduced for the 2011 TEDxKC. I don’t have an iPhone (as I’m sure SOME others in the crowd did not), so if that’s where it was, I missed it.

The Universal Service Recovery Tonic

Later on in the overflow room fiasco, the Nelson-Atkins Twitter account announced free beer during TEDxKC for the overflow attendees. It may have helped a little. In a later Twitter conversation with Chris Reaburn, he remarked that free beer is the universal service recovery beverage, communicating, “Hey we screwed up, but about a cold one on us!”

Gotta Be Moving On

It’s evident the Nelson-Atkins, while a grand location, is not working anymore as the TEDxKC venue. The post-TEDxKC reception was a madhouse in Kirkwood Hall. There was no apparent signage and the interactive aspects of last year’s event were obscured by the mass of people waiting in line for drinks at only two serving locations.

The Rest of the Week

The next several days’ blog posts will feature recaps of the TEDxKC presenters, including the two video presentations of 2011 TED talks. Rather than recapping the evening chronologically, the recaps are organized on the brief thematic explanation that was offered for TEDxKC:

  • Transparency (Tuesday)
  • Radical Collaboration (Wednesday)
  • Mind-set (Thursday)
If you were at TEDxKC, what type of experience did you have? If you’ve been to other TEDx events, how were similar challenges addressed? – Mike Brown

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If you are seeing this blog post, it means I got such a creativity boost from TEDx content last night in Kansas City that I couldn’t get a follow-up blog post written after the event!

So here is a creativity boost idea from earlier in the week on why it is sometimes best to abstain from participating in a creative decision.

I Dislike Thinking about Food

My wife has bad reactions to a whole variety of foods and spices. As a result, we don’t dine out often, and when we do, we go to the same familiar restaurants we know won’t present any problems for her. If we do venture out to a less familiar restaurant, we have to ask questions and make sure the server is knowledgeable and disclosing all the ingredients in whatever she might order.

Suffice it to say, we do a lot of thinking about restaurants.

That thinking coupled with my dislike for selecting food and beverage menus for events AND my personal view of eating as something that’s standing between me and doing more rewarding activities means thinking about food isn’t something that gives me a creativity boost.

My apologies to all the foodies who are reading this!

Creative Restaurant Selections

The past two weeks, I’ve gotten together for lunch with Joe Cox and Aaron Deacon from Social Media Club of Kansas City discussing an upcoming brainstorming project. When it came time to select a restaurant the first week, I abstained from participating in the decision as Aaron recommended an Egyptian restaurant.

While I would never wind up at an Egyptian restaurant on my own, I decided to go along with the recommendation and force myself into a new experience. Well, the Egyptian restaurant was fantastic, and I loved the chicken kabob selection.

When selecting a restaurant  for lunch this week, I never even entered the online conversation. This week, Aaron selected a Vietnamese restaurant. Again, a choice I NEVER would have considered. Once again, it was wonderful, with a great seafood stir-fry as this week’s lunch choice.

As I told Aaron when we left the Vietnamese restaurant, I’m depending on him to make the creative restaurant choices for the rest of what’s becoming a regular Tuesday lunch.

The Creativity Boost Lesson

There’s the creativity lesson in all this: we can become so stuck in thinking and behavioral ruts, we don’t even notice them. These creativity ruts can be compounded be trying to influence / sway / control group  decisions we’re involved with so we wind up never even considering something creatively new and different.

If you suspect this is happening in some aspect of your life, get a creativity boost by forcing yourself to abstain from making a decision – or even contributing input to a decision. Hand the decision over to your knowledgeable, creative teammates and let them take you in creative directions you would have never pursued.

Personally, I can’t wait to see what the creative restaurant selection will be this next Tuesday! – Mike Brown


For an additional innovative boost, download the free Brainzooming ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to enhance your creative perspective! For an organizational boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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Tonight is the much-anticipated third annual TEDxKC event at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. This year’s program is “If Only. Only If,” and according to the event website, the evening’s presentation will explore “how radical collaboration, transparency and an open-source mind-set are shaping our world.”

Beyond the Nelson, the sold-out event is also sponsored by VML, Populous, Harvest Productions and KCPT.

And, if all goes according to plan, I will be live tweeting the event on the #TEDxKC hashtag on Twitter.

I received a last minute ticket to the second annual TEDxKC and was completely blown away by the lineup of speakers. The lineup for the 2011 TEDxKC event looks even more eclectic than in 2010, and when it comes to TEDx conferences, eclectic is what you hope for more than anything!

2011 TEDxKC – The Kansas City Presenters

Beyond Mike Lundgren (@mglundgren), TEDxKC Event Curator and partner at VML, the list of Kansas City presenters includes:

  • Barnaby Bright – (@BarnabyBright) – “The Longest Day Is the Shortest Night” – Brooklyn-based indie folk duo
  • Jenn Lim –  (@DHMovementCEO) – “Applied Happiness” – CEO and Chief Happiness Officer of Delivering Happiness
  • Marcin Jakubowski – “Civilization Starter Kit” – A Ph.D. in fusion physics turned open-source ecologist
  • Patrick Meier – (@PatrickMeier) – “Changing the World, One Map at a Time” Director of Crisis Mapping at Ushahidi
  • Quixotic Fusion – (@quixoticfusion) –  “Act I: Stimulus; Act II: Aquarium and Act III: Transmission”

Participating in the 2011 TEDxKC Remotely

To participate from wherever you are, here are the tools:

Enjoy the live 2011 TEDxKC feeds, and look for updates here soon!


Watch live streaming video from tedxkc at

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What would you do with internet connectivity 100 times faster than you have right now in your home? How would access to an ultra high-speed broadband network fundamentally change the communities of which you are a member?

These questions were at the heart of live video-feed remarks by Matt Dunne, Manager of US Community Affairs for Google at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce 2011 Innovation Conference as he discussed the Google Fiber build out in Kansas City Kansas and Missouri.

What’s Google Fiber?

From the Google perspective, Google Fiber is about delivering ultra high-speed internet connections into a wide-spectrum of Kansas City households. The introduction will provide access to internet speeds never before deployed in a consumer market. Most homes have internet connections with speeds 1% of the one gigabit promised. With Google Fiber the speed will be available for both downloads and uploads (most download speeds are 8 megabits although uploading is at 1 or 2 megabits).

One objective is learning how the connectivity and apps developed to take advantage of the ultra high-speed broadband network will change peoples’ lives in the community. The initial real-world learnings will start with one neighborhood on each side of the Kansas-Missouri state line and expand to neighborhoods with the highest demand for the service.

Entrepreneurs and others around the globe are expected to look at Google Fiber as a new way to develop content, cross-industry and cross-discipline apps, and other online assets that can be delivered directly to consumers.

According to Matt Dunne, the project provides the opportunity to bring innovations Google is developing to Kansas City. The community will be an ideal test bed for further innovation as developers are able to test and introduce new tools with a critical mass of consumers who can provide feedback. This provides an opportunity to attract additional innovators to Kansas City.

What Success Will Look Like

For Google, success will be measured by actual use of the network by a high concentration of consumers across socio-economic categories to make differences in their lives. Dunne highlighted two specific areas:

  • Making sure neighborhoods understand the value of the ultra high-speed internet connectivity and are generating demand for it. Consistent with this, the build out will spread based on where demand is highest, in what Dunne described as a “democratized process.”
  • Delivering support for organizations vital to daily lives. This will be demonstrated through creating apps that make a difference in schools, libraries, health centers, senior centers, etc.

Shaping the Impact of Google Fiber

Responding to a question from Innovation America founder Rich Bendis about the timeline for roll out beyond Kansas City, Matt Dunne said the company is currently in discussions with other communities. Its first step, though, is making sure it has a proof of concept with the Kansas City build out. Beyond Kansas City having the notoriety of being the first community chosen, it can expect an exclusive window through the first several quarters of 2012 before a next area is started.

Since this is the first widespread consumer implementation, what it will mean for Kansas City is an open question for citizens, developers, and innovators to explore and shape. In lieu of looking to the company for support, investment, or direction, Dunne recommended Kansas City community groups move ahead with ideation and identifying ways to exploit these new capabilities. He noted locally-hosted gatherings planned around specific topics (telemedicine and entertainment were mentioned) with the intention of prompting formation of new ideas, connections, and networks of innovators. – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help enhance your marketing strategy and implementation efforts.

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Wall Street Journal “Creating” profile featuring Soleio Cuervo, a product designer and member of the team that created the Facebook “Like” button shed some light on creativity and perspective. Since I always appreciate a profile that looks behind the scenes at how someone who creates does the creating, I recommend you check the article out if you haven’t seen it already.

5 Creativity Lessons from Soleio Cuervo

In the meantime, here are 5 creativity lessons from Soleio Cuervo and his Facebook experience that stood out in the Wall Street Journal article:

  • Before you start creating, push yourself to look for intriguing analogous situations to what you’re working on. Learn from how others address comparable situations to yours.
  • Plan in a different creative medium than you’ll ultimately implement in. Draw the document you’re creating. Write prose about the design you’ll be doing.
  • Test what you’re working on with real-life situations/data/elements, etc. Real users don’t use things in clean elegant ways; they beat on them and use them incorrectly. Your testing should do the same.
  • When creating, you have to look closely at what you’re doing, but also step far away from it to see what things look like at a distance. You’ll see very different patterns and specifics.
  • Just because you spent a lot of time on something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be willing to walk away from it if it’s not right. You’ll spend more time fixing it or disaffecting others by keeping what’s clearly not on target.
Interestingly, Cuervo says that he invests 80% of his work into planning what to design. How much time do you spend planning what you’re going to do? – Mike Brown

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