Celebrating all ideas, (TED-X Mile High)

Two weeks ago I attended the TED-X Mile High event in Denver. I have been watching TED Talks on You Tube for a long time and really enjoy some of the ideas that are explored during these events. The key word here is some. For those who are not familiar with TED it is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. The tag line is “Ideas worth Sharing”.
For more information please explore these sites:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TED_(conference)
http://www.ted.com/

The event I attended was held at the Ellie Caulkins Opera house in Denver. It was very interesting, entertaining, and enlightening. Of course this wasn’t a full blown TED-Talk; it was an independent event which the organizers call a TEDx event.

For more information please explore: http://www.ted.com/pages/about_tedx

During my classes I tell students that there is no such thing as a stupid question. When I am investigating a process improvement at work, I say to my team that there are no stupid ideas. Most of the time there is the specter of sarcasm hidden behind these statements. Sure there are stupid questions and stupid ideas, but the goal is to encourage participation. Stupid is overlooked, and quietly tolerated so that everyone is encouraged to contribute.

A TED event takes this theme and runs with it. However they are rather picky about their presenters. It proves that stupid and brilliant ideas can coexist nicely in a room full of geniuses with good intentions.

Any and all ideas are celebrated with energy that reaches an almost manic level. It seems that the idea being communicated is more important than whether or not the idea has a chance of working. The optimism was palpable. Every idea was presented with a passion and enthusiasm that made their idea seem both ground breaking and self-evident. “Wouldn’t it be great if people would just pick up fruit that fell from trees and just, like, eat it? Yea urban free fruit for everyone” It was completely up to the listener to evaluate its value privately and respectfully. That is not to say that everyone is of like mind, it is simply that the venue is not set up for debate. The attitude seems to be, here is a really cool person with a really cool idea we think is, well, really cool. Each presentation is limited to about 15 minutes so the presenters are forced to be concise and stick, more or less, to the point. This was not only refreshing, but provided a very comfortable experience.
However, I will probably not attend another TEDx event. It was a great experience, but I will probably stick to watching them on You-tube. There I get to choose what to watch and when to stop the speaker. I understand that this is a selfish luxury, but my brain is only good for so much balderdash, group hugs, capitalist guilt, urban suffering, art as hope, respecting diversity, feeding the hungry, leading horses to water, global solution based engineering and other well-meaning claptrap before I become numb.

Instant gratification is the new normal when it comes to entertainment, and I know I shouldn’t bitch about having to sit through hours of well-presented and interesting speeches on topics that I have no interest in listening to. But there has to be a limit to how much a person can endure. Sure there are diamonds lying right there in the ground, but how much dirt does a person sift to find it worthwhile?

The first speaker was not only interesting, and educational, but also entertaining. He was a kid (17) from Colorado who invented a robotic prosthetic hand that moves according to brain activity. He now works for NASA. Cool, it started out with a bang. The next speaker said he was an urban permaculturist, and spoke about eating native plants rather than ones that tasted good, ok sounds interesting, impractical and gross but still interesting. Then there was a nice lady from Kaiser talking about health care. She had a troupe of people walking around providing a visual interpretation of her ideas on saving health care dollars by not being a lazy fat ass smoker. And so on… There was a Water activist, a humanitarian cyclist, and Political steward and chief of staff to the Governor. This was going downhill and the pace was accelerating. I looked through the program and found that there wasn’t much left that I was interested in hearing about. I decided to wait it out and see if something grabbed my attention, for good or ill.

The last speaker, before the intermission, talked about hip-hop futurism. “As a post-modern deconstruction of a Western European meta-narrative, Hip Hop stands as an exemplar of the effect upon the individual of societal ills that are now global in scope.” No, I did not make that up. He promised a demonstration of his musical art after the break.

That is when I found out exactly how much dirt I was willing to sift.

I went home.

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