TED talks and TEDx: Ideas worth spreading

17 11 2012

Ideas floating about, crisscrossing through the university atmosphere. I think a tag line for TED is “Ideas worth spreading” but I might have that from somewhere else. In any case, there is some rubbing and cross-pollination happening now at various college campuses, those hosting the TEDx local days. My son is one of the main organizers for the session at University of Waterloo, and I’m sending him good luck wishes all day. It’s a lot of work to put on this sort of conference, with live feeds and various sessions, food and parking and ticketing and registration and funding and all that. I’m always gobsmacked when people pull these things off well, and I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the Waterloo one is going swimmingly, but I’m over here kind of bursting with pride.

In my family, TED talks are the creme de la creme. We all tune into the podcasts and I recommend them to everyone – you can take 10 minutes and learn about a totally new idea taught by a leader in the field. The speakers on the live feed  from Waterloo today are younger than they often are in the main TED talks – TEDx uses local stars with unusual ideas, seeking to inspire the student attendees.

I like to see the enthusiasm in the crowd – the young faces still enthused (if somewhat nebulously) about changing the world, about saving us from greenhouse gases, about finding their passion and following it.

If they can create environments where this idea trading goes on, I’m sure they’ll find a good place for all this enthusiasm.

Unfortunately, so many workplaces try to squash innovation and thinking and even valuable activity. Students being interviewed talked about breaking down silos and connecting people – it’s tough, doing that. I hope they can. I’ve tried, with greater or lesser success. The barriers can be intense, the turf-clutching dramatic.

Sometimes it seems like everyone is fighting to get a slightly larger desk while the reason for their job goes unattended.

Even at Waterloo, programs are split into silos, breaking down engineering into tiny specialty areas to entice students  – and then creating an integrative studies program for those like my son who see things holistically so try to stick the parts back together. It seems foolishness to rip things apart and then stick them together again, but perhaps there will be new alignments, new creations that come about through this.

I sure hope so. We want these sparks of inspiration to gather together and create a true fire. Otherwise, it’s another pricey flash in the pan.

Oh, and PS – I’m going to look into that live streaming stuff for Bloody Words 2015 – might make it more accessible for people across the Atlantic Provinces…maybe my son can help?

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