Working Out Loud from TEDx Indianapolis – Mix It Up!

The theme for TEDx Indianapolis this year, which I was fortunate enough to attend on October 22nd, was “Mix It Up!”, meaning learn new things from places you don’t usually look, meet new people with different perspectives, challenge your norms, etc.

TEDx Indianapolis

Instead of writing a long drawn out summary of the day, I thought I’d capture some of my favorite takeaways and tidbits from the various speakers. You can see a list of all the speakers and topics at the link to TEDx Indianapolis that I provide above, but I’ll recap a few of them that caught my attention below.

Time for Three / Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

My Summary: First of all, this strings group named Time for Three performed multiple times throughout the day, and they were amazing. They did one “mash up” with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra that was incredible to hear in person, with a ton of energy and obvious instrumental skill. Check them out at time-for-three. I captured a snippet of the performance here.

Personal Action: Add them to my Spotify playlist!

Diversity Is Upside Down

My Summary: Andres Tapia talked about how the world is changing in terms of population and perception, particularly as what has typically been labeled as the “minority” is becoming more and more the actual “majority”. He presented data that proved that diverse teams, if managed well, will outperform homogeneous teams in work scenarios. However, if not managed well, diverse teams have a tendency to actually perform worse. Managing the teams is the key. I tweeted his best statement:

Question to ponder: Do you have a diverse team, but one where proper inclusion is lacking and could be improved? Think beyond traditional diversity boundaries, but also think about things such as work style, personality traits, etc. Are the methods you are using to work and collect input from that team inclusive of their strengths and ability to contribute?

Art as Practice for Being a Change Agent

My Summary: The content from Rise Wilson wasn’t much of a surprise given the title, how using various forms of art can help you open up your own creative side and inspire others around more so than with typical boring whitepapers and slide decks. But the one point she made that resonated with me was about the balancing act of being an effective change agent for any cause:

  1. Courage: Identify Gaps via critical thinking
  2. Break Rules: Quickly move from the critical mindset to a creative one in order to begin problem solving. “Knowledge is limited. Imagination is limitless.”
  3. Review & Imagine: Provide an inspiring visual to communicate your vision for significantly improving the situation. “Push boundaries of imagination to drive real change.”
  4. “Know and fear what’s at stake, and do it anyway.”

Personal Action: Use more creative representations of ideas, vision and personal reflection to inspire others and move more quickly from the point of critically identifying a gap to providing an effective improvement on the situation. It isn’t the solution itself that stalls progress, it’s usually about getting people to believe in your vision as to why it will be better than what they are already doing that is the hardest part of getting started. Practice the art (whatever the form) to improve at the art.

Spinnovation: Investigating our domestic revolutions

My Summary: This was a humorous set of interesting observations by Michael Flaherty about how our households have evolved than it was about inspiring a future mindset. But it was certainly entertaining. The basic concept was about how the “spinning circle” has played such a critical role in making our domestic lives easier. Appliances mainly. The placement of appliances in the home, particularly in the kitchen. Think about it.

Interesting note: I couldn’t help but think about how the name of our internal enterprise social network, “The Loop,” came to be as he was giving this quick talk. Our goals were to innovate how we as a company collaborate and share, by expanding each of our “inner circles” larger than ever before feasible. Also personally expanding our potential “sphere of influence” in our areas of expertise. Are we practicing “enterprise spinnovation”?  🙂

Massive-scale Online Collaboration

This was a video they showed during lunch that was fascinating about how the CAPTCHA security system led to massive digitization of books. And now how similar “crowdsourced” efforts are being used to translate the web! Basically, take something that people are doing on a massive scale anyway, and turn it into an innovative, helpful solution IN THE PROCESS of doing that thing, instead of as another stand alone initiative.

Watch here:

Education and Ideas by Removing Structure

My Summary: The most memorable part about Christian Long‘s talk was when he took 8 high school kids on an RV for 30 days on a trip…with no maps…no directions…no plans. Just a mission to show respect for one another, avoid interstates and to capture the experience as they went and to daydream daily. They literally flipped coins at intersections to determine which way to go. They found and explored parts of this huge country where few people rarely actually go anymore. The kids took pictures, captured journals, wrote blog posts, etc. Many told him years later it was a life defining experience for them.

What Could We Do?: Sure, structure in business is good. But a little chaos and coin flipping here and there may result in some new lines of thinking and innovative ideas. Remove boundaries and pre-defined paths. Go where the road takes us. Daydream. Change a part of ourselves in the process…and see what type of “unplanned” output results?

Healthcare as a Topic at TEDx Indianapolis

My Summary: Two topics that had healthcare related impact resonated with me. First, Chad Priest described a working vision for designing the healthcare provider of the future…and it isn’t what you’d originally think. It was about the role that NON-healthcare professionals play in providing education about and providing services more geared toward healthcare prevention (vs treatment). One example he provided was that of lawyers that educate landlords about the potential impact of poor living conditions on children’s health and their liability in such situations. How might that change their behaviors and reduce poor living conditions for asthmatic children? Or the role of big data technology companies using online activity to detect potential outbreaks before they grow and other trends in certain areas of the world that could lead to new insights. In essence, he was describing a healthcare world with higher crowdsourcing of unique expertise, resulting in more diverse cross-field networking about upstream conditions that result in downstream adverse health impacts. And if more of those non-traditional voices are brought to the table, we can improve our success rate of healthcare prevention, while continuing with our strengths in healthcare treatment. Thus making many more of us in society actual “healthcare providers”.

The second being this TEDx video of how a teenaged boy, with some intrinsic motivation and the power of the internet, changed the detection possibilities of pancreatic cancer…and who knows what else:

Watch it here:

Additionally, Jeffrey Kline spoke about the signals in a person’s face that are important to detecting and diagnosing serious health issues…how complex it may be to rely on various technology algorithms that could leverage the knowledge and tendencies involved. (A diagnostic selfie app?)

Mixing It Up: Your World and Another World

My Summary: I’m actually going to combine three presenters on this one topic. Both, in general and in their own unique ways, encouraged us to seek learning and inspiration from outside our normal channels and experiences.

Doug McColgin focused on how we conduct our networking activities today and how it is not working well for most of us. Usually we look in one of three places for networking opportunities:

  1. Within our company AND our field of expertise / industry,
  2. Within our company BUT outside our field of expertise,
  3. Outside our company but still within our field of expertise / industry.

He encouraged us to consider the 4th quadrant more often to bring new unique ideas: Network with people with which you share little common ground to really discover new and unique ideas for not only your local area of work, but which may be transformational to your field/industry as well!

Jeb Banner related the experiences of starting up a band and running a band to the entrepreneurial spirit…and how musicians and often great employees as we result. In words that I took to mean, “Don’t just be a cog in the machine, but your whole self to the table” he summed his talk up with, “Don’t just play music. Write music!”

And Tasha Jones inspired with her stories of re-mixing: mixing up classical literature (Shakespeare) with R&B (Tupac) to teach children. Her challenge to all of us:

Making Work Human Again

Finally, in what may have been the coolest of the talks, Patti Digh wrapped up the session in an impactful way. The primary message was to consider being “human” at work again. For years we’ve possibly focused diversity efforts on the wrong conversation and forgotten about the diversity that exists in each and every one of us. I think these three tweets best summarize what she had to say:

It was a lot of fun to go, meet new people, and listen to different perspectives. I definitely felt “mixed up” coming out of there!

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