May 7, 2010

TEDxEast: play, dream, create - session 1

i had the pleasure of attending the second TEDxEast at the city winery in soho today, where the theme was "play, dream, create." the event was so popular that there were two simulcast locations at columbia university and at NYU (at the nuyorican poets cafe in the east village).

attendees were outfitted with moblaic badges with a unique barcode on the back.  after downloading the iphone or blackberry app, they could "scan" the barcodes with their smartphone camera to download the other person's contact information.

the morning kicked off with a welcome from lovely TEDxEast organizer julianne wurm who introduced TEDActive hosts kelly and rives.

raymond gaspard, broadway producer of "a steady rain" was the program's first speaker. his production, staring daniel craig and hugh jackman, set performance records during its 12 weeks on broadway. he spoke about the serendipitous events that led to the production, including a rough mathematical breakdown of your chances of success in the theater: "of all the scripts out there, 1 in 100 get optioned. of those, 1 in 100 get production. of those, 1 in 1000 get on broadway, and of those, only 1 in 6 will make any money."

sam lessin shared his opinions on summit series with me before he took the stage as the second speaker of the day. sam's the founder of and Y+30, and his idea worth spreading was that ownership is on the outs -- that is, if you can afford it, it's better to have someone else own for you. he cited examples like sports equipment rental, zipcar, netflix, google apps, and even "friends-on-demand" (the way he perceives that social media applications have added fluidity to the way he owns his personal relationships).

8-year-old piano prodigy, blake frank, took the stage next with mom and dad in the front row. in his post-performance interview, he said he "felt good after playing for 250 people." it was also announced that blake and one of the hosts would travel by taxi during the next break to the nuyorican for a Q&A session with some of the simulcast viewers.

one of the unintended themes of the day was technical difficulty, spurring the perennial TED conference joke, "it looks like 'T' forgot to come today." to pass the time, rives asked the audience the same question he'd asked the night before on the first ever TEDx6Train, which they'd quickly orchestrated while on a tour of NYC: "whom would you bring back from the dead and why?" answers ranged from gandhi to harry houdini to "nobody."

proud LEGO employee john-henry harris shared some sobering stats about paid vacation and average hours worked per week that made his home country of denmark seem pretty lovely. he talked about the philosophy of play that resonates throughout the LEGO company from "inspiration rooms" to inspiration day kick-off trips organized by employees. the best part about these trips, he said, was that they're not labeled "corporate team building events." his talk reminded me quite a bit of tony hsieh's TEDIndia talk about happiness as a business model.

surprise speaker of the morning was TED curator chris anderson who shared some interesting new ideas about what he's calling "crowd accelerated learning." he used as his primary example the rise of breakdancing videos on youtube where young people challenge each other to "step up." he referenced TED 2010 speaker jon chu, creator of the legion of extraordinary dancers (LXD), who has been close to this movement. through communities in which everyone plays an important role (trendsetter, feedback provider, observer, etc.), and with platforms (like youtube) that offer individual visibility, participants are able to learn and share and improve with quantifiable success metrics (e.g., page views). chris shared other examples including rube goldberg contraptions, make-up tip videos, and TED talks. money quote: "TED speakers are prepping more than if to say to each other, 'step up your game!'"

click here for session 2
click here for session 3

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