Top 10 Reflections From a First Time TEDster

Last week 3p’s resident brand builder, Duke Stump, previously of Nike and Seventh Generation, attended TED for the first time. Below are his top ten reflections:

– For years I rebelled against statistics. Perhaps it was because I got a D+ in Stats 101 at college or the fact that I saw data as something that neutered intuition. Regardless, after seeing Sean Gourley’s presentation on The Mathematics of War, I am a new convert for data and statistics. I now see a new world of abundance where intuition and statistics converge and inform each other. Powerful.
2. INSPIRATION VERSUS DESPERATION – As one TEDster said over lunch, “We don’t have time to be pessimistic.” I personally am an eternal optimist obsessed with what could be and thus I found the verve that permeated the conference to be both magnetic and nutritious. Negative visioning is seldom sustainable, so why not focus on possibility?
3. WHAT WOULD BUCKY DO – As someone who holds Buckminster Fuller as a borderline deity, I kept thinking over and over how cool it would have been to see him on stage. His teachings and principles have never been more relevant than they are today. TED and Bucky would have gone together like sweet ocean swells and empty classrooms. So how about adding D.W Jacobs’s play R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe to TED 2010 Long Beach?
4. FRUSTRATION IS A FUNCTION OF EXPECTATION – The aura leading up to the event is surreal. You begin to feel as if folks will be walking on water. TED has certainly mastered the art of creating your own buzz. That said I had to reconcile my expectations with reality. In other words, TED was fantastic, but the hype leading up to the event created a false sense of brilliance at every step and that is simply not realistic nor fair.

5. MARGARET MEADE WOULD BE PROUD – At a time when we seem to be looking at big brother to bail us out of this colossal market collapse, you recognize @ TED that it is individuals who can make the biggest difference. TED was a beautiful mosaic of individuals who are out to change the world.

– While watching Sylvia Earle’s presentation, I kept thinking what a gift. What a gift to discover early in life something that moves and inspires you daily. Something that might not be considered cool to others or full of richness financially, but something that feels oh so right. Her life’s message is one that we need to share with each other and especially today’s youth. Follow your heart versus your head.
7. PASSION / THE POWER OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT – I once watched my wife race an Ironman (1.2 mile swim, 116 mile bike, 26.2 run) after only having run a 10K. For a year of training she had an obsessive devotion to making her dream come true. I felt that same passion @ TED. In a world of cynics and naysayers, the passion around creating a new world of possibility was palpable. No better example @ TED than Ben Zander simply showing us all how to REALLY sing Happy Birthday. Absolutely loved it.
8. HUMANIZE THE BRAND – Tom Rielly, TED Community Director was a delight. Loved his passion, compassion, and zeal for living the extraordinary. Funny dude who has done a magnificent job of creating something special with the TED FELLOW Program. He also adds a great sense of humility to a program that sometimes borders on arrogance.
9. HUMANITY – TED was an affirmation that what really plagues our world is not the credit crisis or environmental issues, but rather our lack of humanity in our every deliberation. I specifically loved when Barry Schwartz suggested we start to add a little moral jazz into our lives.
10. SYSTEMS THINKING – Have you ever noticed how there is this insatiable urge on behalf of all us to dictate what to do whenever there is an issue? Asking questions has become a lost art. Why did this happen? What is the systemic cause? How can we reframe the issue to consider the whole? It was therefore refreshing to attend a conference that shared HOW TO THINK versus WHAT TO THINK. Nice.
Duke Stump has worked as a brand builder for more than 20 years, most recently for Seventh Generation and Nike. He is now principal and chief architect of the NorthStar Manifesto, a brand-consulting studio.
Photo credit: Wa-J on Flickr

Duke Stump has worked as a brand builder for more than 20 years, most recently for Seventh Generation and Nike. He is now principal and chief architect of the NorthStar Manifesto, a brand-consulting studio.

3 responses

  1. Well said Duke! I was at TED last week and felt the same way. If you don’t mind, I’m sharing your post to the TED Fellows website. If you read the posts on there, you’d see the results of everything you’ve outlined here.

  2. Thanks Duke! I too got the stats and raw data bug, as well as the moral jazz kick. We fellows were blown away by the power of individuals among us and among all TEDizens. I’ve been reminiscing about the Don’t Eat the Marshmallows videos of the 4 year olds tempting themselves — kids bring such laughter to morality and rules while they are learning. Was so curious about your empty classrooms reference since I am a professor. I wonder if you meant something like wishing students were eager to leave and get out there and make a difference. We train them more often than not to be in the status quo – cynical, resigned and begging for answers not inquiring into what matters to them.;

  3. Hope comes first from a vision that there can actually be a different future from the one we currently envision and loathe, and against which our only “defenses” are the reactions of fear. Duke, this post took me back to my youth when life was all about the idealism of the vision of a changing world and the belief that my life could matter. Yeh, I remember now, and I think I had it right, back then.

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