So last Friday we set off together on a sun-filled early train, full of anticipation.
At the door of the Armadillo we were met with huge smiles and welcoming waves; handed our ‘Ideas Worth Doing’ notepads; and entertained by a jazz trio playing Stevie Wonder. This was a good start. Not like any other conference (or even ‘unconference’) we’d been to before.
We jostled amongst the 2,000 attendees for a free seat in the main auditorium, ears and eyes open and ready for 9 hours of stimulation.
First up on stage was Van Ives – not a speaker, a band. Two guys playing an engrossing fusion of electronica, R&B and folk. It felt like we were in the TED trance, under the spell already at 9am.
The rest of the day developed into an intensive blur (is that possible?) of inspiration, agitation, thought provocation, humour and arrest. From astrophysics to gluten free baking, robotics to tax avoidance, the perils of fame to the power of hope.
Standout (stand ups) for us were Darren McGarvey, Karen Dunbar, Adam Kashmiry, and Shona McCarthy. Here are three wee thoughts that have stuck with us over the week…
1. Expertise is nothing without the input of non-experts.
Andy Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England, recalled sharing the good news with the world that the UK’s economy was growing again. The people hadn’t noticed. It turned out the only upturn in the entire UK was in London and the South East. If the economy is to benefit the public, a percentage on a spreadsheet isn’t a good enough measure of success. He was talking about ‘harnessing people’s lived experiences’ and we couldn’t help noticing he was sounding more like a good designer than an economist. A great approach!
2. Base change on truth. Brutal, honest truth.
Jean MacAskill Kerr, Leadership and Team Intelligence Consultant at Cisco, talked about how often we change the wrong things because we haven’t dug deep enough and had the awkward, honest conversations. It’s hard to open up and be brutally honest (especially at work) but if you base change on truth you can’t go wrong.
3. Heartstorming not brainstorming. Lifelines not deadlines.
Miha Pogacnik, violinist, leadership speaker and huge ball of energy, put a great spin on the idea of ‘business supporting the arts’. He argued that the arts are now supporting business more. Businesses are getting into the emotion of communication, the purpose that drives their passion – the arts have been doing that for centuries. You can’t give less than 100% when you’re playing Beethoven.
It was a fantastic day, topped off with the news that Edinburgh has secured next year’s TEDGlobal event. See you there.