After nearly a week’s worth of 2011 TED Simulcast posts, here are seven takeaways that apply to strategy, creativity, and innovation from the various Day 2 TED Talks presented at TEDxKC:

  • Never underestimate the fragility and apparent simplicity of complex systems. If you’re struggling to see simplicity in seemingly complex everyday situations, don’t let yourself off the hook. Keep looking for simplicity.
  • It’s vital to continually alter your perspective to maintain creativity. Sometimes being too close makes situations look very diverse when they aren’t. This is a big challenge for experts when they try explaining things to those us who aren’t experts. Other times, proximity may obscure diversity. Innovative thinkers have to be able to be in multiple places at once mentally to be both great analysts and explorers.
  • When you need to figure out a different business strategy, look for adjacencies. What’s a more general way of describing your current strategic situation? Once you’ve figured that out, explore other situations which are different, yet right next to yours when viewed more generally.
  • Learning isn’t binary. We don’t move from not knowing to knowing something. Learning is iterative. Make as many learning steps (both forward and backward) as you can, as quickly as you can, to maximize your learning potential.
  • Imagination, the interplay between logic and intuition, and the ability to formulate a hypothetical world view are vital to discovery.
  • Aaron O’Connell pointed out we behave differently when we’re in an elevator by ourselves vs. when someone else is with us. We all know we get a lot crazier when nobody else is an elevator with us. But while we act differently when no one is watching, increasingly we’re subject to being watched much more of the time. To get creatively crazy, it’s important to figure out ways to avoid whatever “cameras” thwart your wild mental (and other types of) abandon.
  • It’s not just technical skills and determination which lead to discovery. It’s about creating and articulating a world view much bigger than you. This is a BIG personal improvement area for me.

And to paraphrase Forrest Gump, That all I have to say about 2011 TED.

Except that I’m looking forward to digital marketing agency VML and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art hosting TEDxKC in Kansas City this coming August! – Mike Brown

When it comes to conferences, high impact presentations, and live event social media content, The Brainzooming Group is expert at shaping the right strategy and implementation to create unique attendee experiences before, during, and after an event. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can do the same for your event!

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One learning from the 2011 TED simulcast is that the 18-minute TED talk isn’t a magic formula format ensuring anyone comes across as a genius presenter. While there were a number of outstanding creative presentations, many had clear weaknesses. The recaps today definitely fall into that category, but still held learnings which warrant being singled out.

The Entertainers

“Worlds Imagined” (or Session 5, or Wednesday’s second 2011 TED simulcast session – all the same) was a mishmash and a relative disappointment on the heels of “Deep Mystery.” It began with the E in TED: Entertainment.

Director Julie Taymor‘s introduction referred to the challenges she was going through and expressed amazement she was able to make her TED appearance. With the introduction’s tone, I figured she must be battling a life-threatening illness. She started out talking about how under fire she was, but the huge challenge potentially standing in the way of her appearance was getting the Spiderman musical to work. With the presentations that followed on fighting poverty and disarray in Nigeria, trying to eradicate polio, and a taped talk from TEDxCairo, getting a Broadway show in check seems like nothing a little “what really matters” perspective wouldn’t improve.

Taymor talked about her artistic perspective in bringing stories to the stage and screen. She begins with an ideograph – 3 broad strokes which convey an entire concept. These abstractions set the basis for how her stories unfold. While an artist has to be true to the artistic vision all the way through a piece, it’s vital to also share it with the audience so they can actively participate in the work. Taymor pointed out realities such as budgets and the medium employed can dramatically affect how a story is depicted. Her fantastic reminder was you can use skeletal elements in the theatre to convey much more detail than is really there since inside the theatre, audiences are ready to suspend disbelief and fill in the blanks of what hasn’t been depicted.

Morgan Spurlock (of eating McDonald’s food for 30 days and filming it fame) was there to pimp his new movie “Greatest Movie Ever Sold.” The film revolves around him trying to get advertising agencies to recommend their clients fund his movie through sponsoring product placements. He ultimately went directly to clients and got a number of brands to sign up. All the while he filmed his potential funders, editing it so they look foolish. His presentation hit close to my marketing home, yet it was so jarring because it was a purely promotional message among a 2011 TED simulcast of ideas. He did pass along some sage advice: you must embrace fear, transparency, and risk, and you will find opportunity in risk. Thanks for sharing.

The CEOs

Also during “Worlds Imagined,” Indra Nooyi, Chairperson and CEO of PepsiCo, cited a statistic: only 5% of TED presenters in the past 10 years have been CEOs. After her presentation and that of Bill Ford, Executive Chair of Ford Motor Company, I’d recommend the number move lower. While other presenters were talking about what they are doing personally, CEOs talk about their organizations. Their stories, even when they are trying to be intensely personal (as Bill Ford was), sounded crafted by speechwriters. As with Spurlock’s remarks, big full-on commerce just felt icky during the TED simulcast (and this from a guy who loves commerce!).

The Second Big Picture Guy

Quick disclaimer: by the last 2011 TED simulcast session of the day, “Radical Collaboration,” my brain was too zooming to take in many more ideas. Trying to process another 90+ minutes of content wasn’t helped by the session’s structure, which was all over the place. From Egypt to underwater luminescence, from crappy food to TED fellows, my attention span was way over-taxed. My sense was there was a significant, TED-insider back story which might explain the pieces, but the story wasn’t apparent to TED newbies. My big take away as seemingly disconnected cause-related issues were presented – and support for each requested – was that TED had devolved into an intellectual Jerry Lewis Telethon with viewers left to decide the most worthy need to support: Nigerian kids, polio, health food, or finding other life in space.

Amid these competing inputs, French street artist JR, the 2011 TED Prize winner, delivered an image-rich, although challenging-to-understand, talk on his use of enormous photo posters displayed in metro settings to call attention to issues and people society overlooks. Funding his project through art sales, JR travels around the world to create his street installations (made of paper and glue) which sometimes are in place for years. The gist of the award, as best I could tell, was to provide not just finding to JR, but to also help fulfill his wish of using art – photographs and posters – to change the world through involving people globally in creating giant images.

As JR’s presentation concluded, host Chris Anderson hopped on stage to play a role similar to a private school fund raising auctioneer, soliciting ideas from the audience on how they could help fulfill JR’s wish. While there were some intriguing suggestions (a guy from Google offering to make sure the images show up on Google Earth and Darren Rowse – at least I think it was him – offering access to his 150,000 amateur photographer audience), many suggestions went counter to JR’s artistic vision. His wish was for others to become more involved, but attendees were more focused on giving HIM new places to work (including inside museums, which did not trigger a positive reaction from JR).

I’m sure this format for generating ideas is a well-developed and understood formula for TED insiders, but it got my brain zooming thinking of MUCH more effective ways this mass solicitation of support could be conducted. Again, I’ll admit by this point I was probably just cranky and needed a nap, because I didn’t take away the emotional impact from JR’s presentation that others present at the simulcast did. Check out JR’s video (one of the first 2011 TED videos to be posted) and his project website to truly appreciate how you can get involved.

I warned you there was a lot of content, even with skipping several discussions. Tomorrow we’ll cover the take-away lessons from the 2011 TED simulcast, sponsored in Kansas City by digital marketing agency VML and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.  – Mike Brown

When it comes to conferences, high impact presentations, and live event social media content, The Brainzooming Group is expert at shaping the right strategy and implementation to create unique attendee experiences before, during, and after an event. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can do the same for your event!

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Today is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent. This season is a time intended for more prayer and quiet times. In what’s become an annual tradition, I’ve shared a creativity prayer on this day that I wrote several years ago as part of a creativity presentation I developed.

If you’re struggling creatively, invest some of your time today and in the next weeks asking for a potentially new inspiration source to enhance your creativity and the creativity of those around you!


Thank you for creation itself and the incredible gifts and talents you so generously entrust to me. May I appreciate and develop these talents, always recognizing that they come from you and remain yours.

Guide me in using them for the benefit of everyone that I touch, so that they may be more aware of your creative presence and develop the creativity entrusted to them for the good of others.

Help me also to use your talents to bring a creative spark and new possibilities to your world, living out my call to be an integral part of your creative force. Amen.

Copyright 2008, Mike Brown

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At some point I lost track of the number of different presentations during last week’s 2011 TED simulcast. Beyond standard 18-minute TED presentations, there were video segments, 3-minute talks, audience talks, musical interludes (from the house band comprised of teenagers), introductions of TED-related people, and Skype exchanges with remote simulcast locations (BTW, the Swiss had the right idea, holding their simulcast in a winery). Let’s just say there’s no way here to share every talk (that’s what the videos are for), every challenging idea, and every insight which didn’t occur to me until after all the live TED simulcast tweeting was over. To manage the glut of content, today’s post recaps a few of the more innovative science-oriented stand-out presentations. We’ll cover a few more presentations on Thursday (after a Wednesday post on creativity and taking time to reflect). Friday’s post will highlight the big ideas I took away from the 2011 TED simulcast.

The Scientists

The first simulcast session was titled “Deep Mystery,” and it was packed with really smart scientists and one cellist (hey, it’s TED). Scientists don’t talk in natural one-liners; their messages unfold and the big ideas emerge. This makes them tough to live tweet but yields loads of (and by “loads of,” I mean “too much”) blog content. Here are my “it’s been forever since I was in a science class, and when I was, we didn’t cover this stuff” reflections:

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio explored what constitutes the conscious mind and our sense of self – the “me” in our minds. The critical connections are between the cerebral cortex (which provides the visual spectacle of our minds) and the brain stem (the grounding for the self), and between the brain stem and the body, which creates the autobiographical self, setting us apart from other life forms.  The process depends on the interrelationship between the image-making and memory-forming parts of the brain, and the precise workings between them.

Felisa Wolfe-Simon, a geobiochemist, addressed a wondrous question: How do you know what you’re looking for if you’ve never seen it before? Her focus is identifying alternative microbiological systems both on earth and elsewhere. She claims we look at the tree of life too closely (ignoring many other branches), which causes us to notice great diversity and conclude ALL life must be comprised of the 6 elements making up everything we view as “living.” Wolfe-Simon’s contention is that taking a giant step back to look at the full tree of life opens the view to many other possible life forms. Searching for alternative biochemistries, she began by looking at elements in the periodic table adjacent to those we “know” comprise life, i.e. could a toxin such as arsenic substitute for nearby nitrogen or phosphorous? She indeed found an instance where arsenic does function in a life-supporting role.  Her summary, applicable in SO many situations, is what we don’t know easily precludes us from seeing new forms of life all around us.

Physicist Aaron O’Connell discussed the “weirdness of quantum mechanics,” an area which has been confined to explaining small particles, not larger objects. The interplay between his logical and intuitive points of view launched him on a path to find quantum mechanics playing out on a visible scale, i.e., a visible object which could be in two places at once. Again, I won’t delve into the science, but using a small piece of metal, and getting everything around it (air, heat, etc.) away, allowed the metal to act very differently. O’Connell was able to get the metal to both vibrate and not vibrate at the same time – being in two places at once. He pointed out that the scale differences between an atom and the piece of metal is the same as between the piece of metal and humans, opening up a whole new set of considerations about our ability to be in two places at once.

The most accessible of the science presentations was from cognitive scientist Deb Roy whose remarks incorporated multiple elements which draw in audiences – kids, poignancy, and video of both. Roy installed cameras throughout his home to continuously capture activity (200 terabytes of video) with the purpose of better understanding how children (specifically his son) learn language. Through examining video “space time worms” it was possible to look at the connected places, events, and language which led to his son learning words. Roy demonstrated the technique being applied to media analysis to see how people engage and learn from media exposure.

    The intriguing take-away for me was the interplay between proximity and connectedness throughout each of these talks. More about this Thursday in the take-away lessons.

    The Educator

    Salman Khan, a former hedge fund manager and now YouTube education star, covered the inception and growth of his 12-minute tutorial videos on a variety of mathematical, scientific, and other topics. Growing out of a very informal and convenient means to help tutor his cousins, his videos are now seen by 1 million students monthly. The videos allow for time shifting classroom learning: teachers can use class time for direct student interaction and what is traditionally considered “home” work. Outside class, students are able to review the engaging tutorial videos at their own pace, potentially multiple times, with skills testing that creates enough repetition for a student to have to demonstrate mastery by getting 10 correct answers in a row before moving to the next topic. And since the learning is delivered online, Khan envisions a global classroom community where students around the world are in a position to help each other learn.


    The First Big Picture Guy

    Historian David Christian is the consummate intellectual integrator, tugging upon a wide range of disciplines to spin the story of “Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity.” The TED simulcast audience received an 18-minute version of the multiple billion year story, focusing on how, in a world governed by the second law of thermodynamics, the universe creates complexity. There’s no way to explain this presentation; it has to be viewed. The big fascinating revelation for me was this: Christian points to six threshold events between the big bang (which he puts at 13.7 billion years ago) and the emergence of the human species just 200,000 years ago. Hmmmmm. Know of any other big story of how we got here with six major time divisions? Coincidence? Probably not.

    Wrap Up

    Thanks to Kansas City digital marketing agency VML and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art for bringing the 2011 TED simulcast to Kansas City.

    Thursday we’ll cover some additional 2011 TED simulcast presentations, including the 2011 TED prize winner who invites you to join in changing the world through REALLY big pictures.

    What do you think? Are these TED overviews starting to suggest some big ideas for you? 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 brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to see how we can help you focus your brand strategy to improve on  the things which really matter for your business.

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    What an intense time last week! Even though the 2011 TED simulcast was only one day, sitting in the Nelson-Atkins Museum auditorium March 2nd while absorbing and live tweeting presentations was, without question, the week’s all-consuming event.  I have to thank the folks at VML who sponsored the TEDxKC event and provided a designated seat, ample Wi-Fi, and a nearby power outlet throughout the TED Day 2 simulcast:

    • Organizers Mike Lundgren and Frank Jurden
    • Blair Vance, Assistant Account Manager at VML
    • John Mulvhill (Communications Director) and Ryan Carrothers

    Speaking of Blair, here is her pre-simulcast overview on the TEDxKC event:

    As a starter in mentally processing the TED simulcast experience, here are some insights about how the simulcast played out vs. watching individual TED videos online:

    • Although the live TED presentations were taking place half a continent away, there was clearly a buzz even at the simulcast, particularly as the doors opened and the crowd began to flow into the Nelson-Atkins Museum.
    • Watching individual TED videos online doesn’t reveal the subtle interplay among presentations within a specific session. It’s not as if presenters are in a position to point out themes, however, since they stick tightly to their pre-determined remarks. This makes seeing presentations in sequence, along with what happens in between, an important and different experience than watching isolated videos.
    • The 18 minute format creates very tight, passionate presentations. The focused big thinking and passion of the TED speakers feels genuine, however, in nearly all cases.
    • Despite the cool vibe and great online videos, the live simulcast made it clear: TED presentations aren’t all seamless and perfect. The Bubbli coming-out demonstration was marred by an obvious lack of forethought on how to choreograph it and by comical technical challenges. At one point, its inventor said the technology (which revolves around the camera on your smart phone) would work much better if everyone shut off their phones and if they were using the next generation iPad being introduced that day.
    • It’s interesting to see what people do and don’t applaud during a simulcast when it’s clear the target of the applause will never hear it. One simulcast incident which probably didn’t happen at the in-person TED event was a mass exodus during the performance of “Cripple and the Starfish” by Antony and the Johnsons at the end of the day. Antony nearly cleared the auditorium before the song (which you must hear to truly appreciate) was complete.

    The amount of TED content was overwhelming in the one-day simulcast at TEDxKC. I can’t imagine (both mentally and financially)experiencing it onsite across multiple days. As with the 2010 TEDxKC in-person event though, the simulcast is triggering several Brainzooming blog posts this week:

    • Tuesday and Thursday posts will recap specific TED talks during the simulcast
    • Friday’s post will highlight take-aways from the the TED simulcast

    Hang on! – 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 brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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    Where do you fit in the Intellectual Capital Hierarchy?

    • Those who can, do.

    • Those who can’t do, go around the country talking about case studies of those who do.

    • Those who can neither do nor share case studies, like to pay to hear stories of those who do.

    Mike Brown

    I “do” and also “talk,” for the most part, about stuff I’ve actually “done” instead of reading about stuff others have done and talking about it. It would be great to participate in your event or training session to share an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on strategy, innovation, branding, social media or a variety of other topics. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to see how we can get your audience members Brainzooming!

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    Last Friday, Barrett Sydnor and I attended the Freelance Exchange of Kansas City luncheon where Kansas City’s inimitable Shelly Kramer shared her ideas on social media, ROI, and how individuals in small, freelance businesses can benefit from smartly used social media strategies. Shelly voiced a number of fundamental points relevant for both those just getting started on social media and for businesses who have been at it for several years:

    Nothing’s more important than your website.

    Your website is your “online business home,” and before diving out into social media, it’s fundamental to make sure your website is ready for visitors.

    Easy to find websites are critical to successful marketing efforts.

    As Shelly puts it, you need to view Google and Facebook as clients. Just as you want clients to know where you are, these two powerful forces in search / inbound marketing need to be regularly updated on where your business is online. You do that with a well-implemented website and a strong search engine optimization strategy.

    “Websites need to be fed like you feed your kids.”

    Part of making your website findable is keeping it replenished with new content, or in Shelly’s words, “Fresh content makes search engines happy.”  What’s the best excuse for introducing new social media content to a website? You guessed it, blogging, thus Shelly’s frequently repeated exhortation for attendees to suck it up, make the time, and start blogging.

    Most web visitors are lurkers – remember the silent majority.

    Shelly reminded everyone that 90% of the people visiting your blog are lurkers, i.e. they’re watching you but not participating in the online conversation. Nevertheless, they may be potential buyers even before they’re commenting on your blog. Create content that helps expand their perspectives and understanding of what your business can offer.

    Attention needs to be paid to LinkedIn.

    As the biggest business site, Shelly said one of her objectives for 2011 is to spend more time with LinkedIn. She encouraged the group to make sure personal and business profiles are current. Additionally, the Groups and LinkedIn Questions and Answers functions provide strong networking opportunities for businesses.

    “Nobody cares about your business more than you do.”

    It’s up to small business owners to invest the effort and dollars to grow their businesses.You don’t really have any excuses if you fail to step up to the challenge.

    Shelly Kramer provided a valuable, fast-paced hour of content sure to energize attendees’ marketing efforts and to get them to say, “Hello” to blogging for their businesses! – 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 brainzooming@gmail.comor call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help enhance your marketing strategy and implementation efforts.

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