TEDxOxbridge delivered an excellent lineup of speakers on Saturday 6th June 2011. I enjoyed the talks throughout the day and outline those that¬†resonated¬†with me most, Alex, Richard, Paz, Jean and Marc. I would like to congratulate the TEDx organisers and team on an excellent event, but ask you sort out AV for next year. ūüôā On a positive note, all TEDx events should have the post-event dinners, an excellent idea!

I met many interesting people from the audience including two¬†fascinating¬†doctoral students from Sa√Įd Business School, a handful of MBA’s, a CEO taking X-Rays to the max, an entrepreneur creating games that make people smarter¬†and a really cool musician. The after-party was held in Oxford Town Hall that introduced me to a culture of strangely¬†patterned jackets part of the Oxbridge tradition for Rowing Clubs. On to the talks……

Alex Steffen [about] [web] [twitter]

Alex Steffen introduced futurism to the audience, discussing the ‘history of the future,’ transportation utopias that¬†lead down a¬†glorious¬†highway. ¬†Looking at Edison who sold the future ideals of an invention, not its features. Simon Sinek¬†must love ¬†him as he was a WHY person.

Futurists today are for hire, Alex claiming he too has cashed many cheques renting out this¬†unique¬†skill-set. The conflict is found as we steal the future and market it to the present. ¬†My favourite line of the day goes to Alex “selling the future is an inter-generational Ponzi scheme.” ¬†He finished with a comical slide that left the audience in laughter “Free your mind and your ass will follow,” asking us to become good ancestors seeking and creating new possibilities for humanity and the planet.

¬†I was looking forward to hearing Alex’s talk the most and it is very much worth watching when it’s goes online. (Will update with link.)¬†Talking to Alex after, two Oxford MBA’s were discussing his talk,¬†surprised¬†that he even had a book published..Go him!! Reminded me of this¬†scene from the Social Network. I wish I had of brought my “World Changing” book to get it signed, I see¬†a new updated edition¬†and¬†look forward to your new book as well.

Richard Seymour [about] [web] [twitter]

Richard¬†instantly¬†conveyed his charisma with his amazing manual slide clicker that became an entertaining form of dance on the stage. He indicated to the side of the stage to forward his slides¬†with hilarious gestures that gave a great transition. In its technological glory, I’m not sure if Powerpoint could ever add a feature that was this cool.

Following on Alex’s talk, Richard highlighted the blue sky in the background of comic book Dan Dare – Pilot of the future. The irony of a this beautiful blue sky was that the sky was not this colour in post-war, but they drew a future full of optimism. He told us that the future could have happened eighty years ago, the technology existed, but new applications and combinations of old technologies are creating the latest innovation, not reinventing tech. This reminded me of¬†Bertoit Brecht’s description of the radio in 1926. ‚ÄúOne-sided when it should be two. It is purely an apparatus for distribution.‚ÄĚ The technology in the twenties as I see it would have allowed us make radio 2.0 forming a social radio network, the Facebook of 1926, but we didn’t do that, luckily Mark + friends did in 2004.

At an early age, Richard Seymour took an interest in Design for Need making a shelter for UNESCO. Designed it to perfection, it was easily deployed, cheap and effective. But when received¬†by locals, they ripped them apart and built homes with their traditional method. The world is not a ‘one answer for all’ and failure to listen and watch those on the ground results in products that do not work.

At Brian Forde’s talk at TEDxLBS last month he told a similar story (history repeating itself!)¬†Brian designed a bike with phone access in¬†Guatemala powered by pedal power. It met several impressive keywords of social¬†enterprise from mobility to reach gaining media attention throughout the western world. However the project failed enormously. Locals did want to make phone calls to chat with their pals or ask who wanted to go see a film, they wanted to spread the news of death or spread money to family, relatives and friends whom had left the country. The bike for the public square did not address the required privacy. A lesson learnt for me, thank you Richard and Brian for sharing this lesson, one I no doubt will face soon.

I was very happy to hear Eva’s friend¬†David Constantine mentioned whom I am big fan of. His produces amazing wheelchair designs that send design instructions to the developing world allowing everyone access to¬†mobility.

The next slide was very funny asking the¬†audience¬†what they saw showing a typewriter. Everybody of course saw a typewriter, but a child’s answered was shown on screen ¬†“A laptop that prints as you write and you don’t have plug-in.”¬†Another¬†question asked¬†‘what is the first thing you do when opening a sugar sachet?’¬†Most responded with a tear with two hands, I gestured a rip from my mouth opening it with my teeth, Richard noticed me and repeated the gesture looking right at me… “wrong as well.” The answer was of course to the shake the sachet and push the sugar to one end before tearing it open. Ask people a question, they may give the wrong answer, myself included, but watch them do it and new insight is found. This point reminded me of Paul Bennett’s talk that presented¬†“the mirror of the bleeding obvious.”¬†Given I know this type of example well, I feel the designer is not exempt from this very useful method of observation.

Richard concluded his talk with an extract from an old Templar oath that is his screen saver¬†‘Safeguard the Helpless and do no wrong.’¬†He views this every day and I think I’ll join you with setting it as my desktop background too. He closed “If your job is to meddle in creating the future, step carefully, or do something less dangerous.” Given my¬†ambitious¬†project of changing the 9500 years of a six sided brick to something a little more interesting, this line resonated in my mind throughout the day and hasn’t stopped yet. Fantastic talk!

Paz  [about] [web] [twitter]

Paz was a great speaker and very interesting to listen to his story. He moved to LA with the dream of being of s singer-songwriter ditching the other route of law school, much to the chagrin of his parents. Given the changes in the music industry over the last decade and the rise of music piracy, why not help people steal your music as their going to anyway. More difficult than it sounds for an unknown artist, each day Paz would get fifteen people to steal his¬†album. My favourite part of his talk was his visit to the music label after picking up traction on the web. The music executive¬†described the turmoil of the music industry, people were stealing music! Paz knowing this was not going to work for him asked “what methods do they do use?” The naive exec responded with social media, blogs but bit torrent was the worst! That night Paz uploaded his music to bit.torrent, doubling the amount of people whom he helped steal his music.

I wrote a thankyou message on facebook to Paz.¬†James:¬†AMAZING! I just STOLE your full album! Was at TEDxOxbridge and loved your talk, i might try apply a similar principle to my work (non music) as when I was young I wanted to be a pirate, thanks for speaking…was inspiring!¬†Paz: Steal on, young pirate. Steal on!

Listening to your album as I write this post.

Jean Oelwang [about] [web] [twitter]

“Screw¬†Business as usual.” ¬†I like how you roll.

Who are our celebrities today, Lady Gaga has 87 million hits with poker face, world leaders struggle to make one hundred thousand and yet “Charlie bit my finger” has 337 million hits, a fifteen minute celebrity. It would have been interesting to ask the room “who are there celebrities?” Mine are almost all TEDsters, for my father it is the authors he reads (many whom have spoken at TED. For my friends, it is a mix of the two, so our celebrities are already the desired group this talk wishes for. So the question is how do we get more people interested, TEDx is of course a great start. The global village was mentioned, I‚ô•Bucky, one of my heroes. I loved hearing about the Elders, I will look into their work more…

For those that liked this talk, check out¬†TEDx GoodenoughCollege by Christian Busch¬†that discussed lateral¬†accountability, a balance of social impact and profit as well as reinterpreting Maslow’s hierarchy of needs from a triangle to a circle, a must see!

I hope Richard Brandson’s swim training is going well for the crossing of the Irish Sea. I will be swimming the Channel in September as a two person relay, (Your both more than welcome on the boat.) While I will be raising money for another cause, I set up a Cancer Research UK profile for donations¬†so that readers of this post can support Richard Brandson and Ronan Keating in their quest to raise ¬£1,000,000.


Marc J Ventresca [about] [web] [twitter]

Marc Ventresca works on institutions, strategy, and innovation at the University of Oxford and asked us to become ‘system builders’ over ‘entrepreneurs.’ He details the word entrepreneur to contain the wrong imagery, wrong lessons, wrong sense of luck/risk and wrong opportunity. Today as things change and we move to systems not¬†individual¬†objects.¬†‘System builders’ is proposed to replace ‘entrepreneurs’. The word entrepreneur stems from the french entreprendre – to undertake and -eur used when french verbs become nouns. I do like rejection of ‘entrepreneur’ but think a better name for a ‘systems builder’ might exist. A portmanteau “Sytempreneurs” is my entry, but would love to hear what everybody suggests.

Lastly, my favourite pre-recorded TED talk was Brené Brown from TEDxHouston on Vulnerability.