Designing the World of Digital Experience

Highlights from TED Global 2011

TED Global 2011 at Edinburgh International Convention Center

Attending a TED conference is an intense, immersive experience where the speakers distill a lifetime of experience into an 18-minute presentation. These carefully-planned, well-rehearsed talks leave an unforgettable impact on the audience.

This is the third time that I’ve attended the TED Global conference and each one has proven to be a life-changing experience.

The name, TED, stands for three of my favorite things… Technology, Entertainment and Design. The previous two TED Globals were held in Oxford, England and this one was hosted in Edinburgh, Scotland — home of the Scottish Enlightenment.

The Stuff of Life

The theme of TED Global 2011 was “The Stuff of Life” which asked the question… “How can it be better lived?”  This set the tone for the conference that challenged the attendees with a rich new perspective.  My big takeaway was that although there seems to be alot of problems in the world, there IS an answer out there and it’s up to all of us to rethink the life we want to create and question the systems that operate our world.

TED Global 2011: Edinburgh Castle

Taking a step back from the individual talks themselves, is a well-orchestrated event thanks to TED curators, Chris Anderson and Bruno Giussani.  They assemble a roster of speakers around a theme intended to create an intellectual journey for those in attendance.  By the end of the conference, people leave with their brains practically rewired as a result of their exposure to new ideas that challenge their worldview.

What happens on stage helps to accellerate the discussions that happen between the talks.  I had fantastic conversations with optimistic leaders from around the world that ranged from economics, world politics, environmental issues, the future of business, science, breakthrough mobile technology and urban planning.

Here are three interesting TED Talks that really stood out to me.

1. Paul Bloom: The Origins of Pleasure

The opening party was held on Monday night at the Edinburgh Castle.  I wound up accidently hanging out in the speakers lounge where I met people scheduled to speak later that week.  One discussion that really stood out was with Yale Professor Paul Bloom where we talked about neuroscience and how it applies to marketing and communications.

More of Paul Blooms’ Yale classroom videos available online.

During his presentation, Bloom explained how people derive more pleasure interacting with things that have an uniquely emotional story attached to them.  It’s been proven that our beliefs about the history of an object can change how we experience it.

Understanding the psychological connections that storytelling creates has tremendous implications for brand marketers and social media content creators.  And by creating more engaging stories, we can enhance the relationship people have with a product or brand.

2. Paul Zak: The Moral Molecule

Zak sprays Oxytocin on stage. (Photo: James Duncan Davidson / TED Conferences)

 

Where does trust & empathy come from? NeuroEconomist Paul Zak talked about his research with the human hormone oxytocin and it’s economic impact.  His research shows that when oxytocin is stimulated, it makes people more generous, empathetic and helpful. You may know about the importance of oxytocin in pregnancy but it can also be released during things like massage, praying and dancing.

I was thrilled to learn that social media produces a double dose of oxytocin!  It creates a better sense of trust and as he said…  “where there is more trustworthiness, there is more prosperity.”  

“Civilization is dependent on oxytocin. You can’t live around people you don’t know intimately unless you have something that says: Him I can trust, and this one I can’t trust.”

Key Takeaway: Connecting your brand to positive, happy feelings is good for your bottom line.

3. Tim Hartford: Trial, error and the God complex

Here “The Undercover Economist” talks about how people are not as smart as they may think they are.  This leads to huge problems when people jump to certain assumptions.  The arrogant “God Complex” is dangerous when people feel a sense of over-confidence in their decision-making ability.   The world is very complex — and complex systems are built through trial and error.

Key Learnings:

  • Experimenting leads to success.
  • Don’t be afraid to make “good mistakes”.

Also be sure to check out the TED Conference App on iTunes.

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