TEDx Toronto 2010 – A Pilgrim On A Shopping Spree

What a wonderful day.  From the start, I was greeted with smiles and happy faces.  It was like a Stuart MacLean Vinyl Cafe concert to anyone whose been to one.  Or like one of the 60’s folk festivals.  Nice people.  People that you like to hang out with.

Music.  Poetry.  And the speakers!  Wow.

To take a line from the great band “Broadway Sleep” who played four great tunes in the morning — we were “pilgrims on a shopping spree”.

Here’s my glimpses of TEDx Toronto and a link so that you can see some of the pre-recorded talks.  Read on…

Here’s my take on some of the presentations.  See for yourself at http://tedxtoronto.com/ – they’ve already posted three of the talks online.
A Jihad Of Love – Boona Mohammed

I didn’t know what to make of poet Boona Mohammed as he took the stage with his “jihad of love”.  “Push the boundaries of what is considered normal,” he told us.  And he did.  He teased us with his stories.  We saw ourselves.  We laughed

“Why would you hate, when love costs less?” was his unassailable logic.  Even “fundamentalism begins with fun” he quipped and shattered the barriers between us and the world, if only for a few minutes.

A Return To Purpose – Bruce Poon, Gap Adventures

Social media has made it possible for small companies like his to conduct “destructive innovation”.  But as his company has grown to be one of the largest in its field, he has seen another perpective.

The current mantra of a “triple bottom line”  (People, Profit and Planet) is not suitable for large companies.  His solution?  We need to redefine sustainability.

In his own area of eco-tourism he opened my eyes to some of the realities. By 2020, international tourism will involve 1.6 billion people. (UNWT 2008 report)  In the 40 poorest countries, he said that tourism was second only to oil as a leading source of income.   Yet of each $100 USD spent in developing countries, only $5 stays in the developing country.

How to change this?  How do you take people who “just want a simple holiday” and take them from eco-tourism to responsible travel which improves the lives of the local people?  How to you go from there to sustainable tourism?

He advocated a “return to purpose and passion” as a strategy that should resonate with even the largest companies.  he pointed out the transformation of the Dove brand from a bargain soap to a beauty brand.  It’s a case where large companies start to behave more like small companies.

His approach mirrors mine.  I’m increasingly an advocate for what I call a “grass roots strategy” that by its nature requires a return to purpose.

He claims that you can engage our customers to a higher purpose.  One of the innovating examples he gave was how his company made more employment opportunities for women – often an ignored group.  His company created a weaving cooperative that ended up being a perfect synergy.  His tourist guests loved to visit and purchase and the women gained employment and income.

Even his approach to “outsourcing” was affected by this idea of responsibility.  At one point, he did what many companies do in foreign countries.  He franchised out services to local providers.  It didn’t work.  The service quality was inconsistent and even poor.  He continues to use local people, but now his own company hires locals directly and runs the business.  I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a lesson for those who outsource overseas? Our company outsources as well, but we go through great lengths to make the employees we take feel as if they are employees of our company and fully on our team.

Can we engage our customers to a higher purpose?  Perhaps.  But only if we have a higher purpose.

Imagine your last hamburger

The day was interspersed with TED videos.  One of these (I missed he name of the presenter) informed us that “meat causes more emissions than all transportation combined, yet we eat twice as much meat as we did in the 1950’s.

Our presenter was always going to give up meat later.  Later never came.  Instead, he did something practical.  He ate vegetarian during the week and meat on the weekend.

The Lollipop Story – Drew Dudley

“Leadership cannot be taught.  It can only be learned.”  (Who said that?)  Drew urged us to move from making leadership an attribute of only “special people” where we compete with others to be that mythical leader. As long as we make leadership something greater than us, we’ll never find it.   Instead, let’s consider leadership as something we all do, not as someone who takes the centre of attention, but as providers of inspiration.  “Inspiration,” he noted, “is creating new ideas in other people.”  To achieve this, we have to let go and realize that there is no world, on “6.5 billion understandings of it.”

Drew went on to tell us what he called the “lollipop story” – a story of an encounter where he had really touched someone in his life.  I can’t do it justice in a column.  You have to hear it for yourself.  I’ll try to find a link to a recording of this and put it in the blog.

One In Five Of Us –  Christine Zahn of CAMH

Spoke on behalf of the 1 in 5 of us who will have a brush with mental illness.  She brought it right into the room as she pointed out that in our crowd of several hundred people, 3 of us will have schizophrenia.   The she took us from the room out into the big world where “1/2 a billion people are not living their best life.”

Here advice came from her teenage son who advised her to “discover discuss and demand” better.

What’s Missing Is Dignity – Neil Hetherington, Habitat for Humanity

I thank god I’m not the only one who hates those  “extreme home makeover” shows where someone comes in and does a home reno for some poor person.  Only now I know why I dislike them.  “What’s missing,” said Neil Hetherington, “is dignity.”   Habitat for Humanity doesn’t do things for people, it invites them to “come build with me”.  They can overcome the “disintegrating emotion of self-pity” and we return to the nobility of community.

Coalitions of Unlikely Allies – Amanda Sussman

Spoke on the “art of the possible” and urged us to build “coalitions of unlikely allies”.  She spoke of breaking the myths. You don’t have to be famous.  You don’t have to know people.  Politicians don’t have all the power.  And all governments are not corrupt.

The real problem?  We have “too many radicals and far too many reformers.”   The problem is that both already have the answers.  They ask questions without realizing that how you ask a question determines its answer.

We need more “unlikely coalitions” and those who make progress one step at a time.  Real change doesn’t happen top down or bottom up.  It happens when both occur at the same time and when we build these unlikely coalitions.  She ended with a perfect symbol of this – a picture of her and George Bush together.  I didn’t question it.  It would have framed my answer:-)

There was more.   There were others speakers as well.  This is what I had in my notes at the end of the day.

But it wasn’t just speakers.  It was the energy in the room and the great discussion.  In the many network breaks, I answered email and returned calls. But I also got to meet some very interesting and wonderful people.  We shared lunch, conversation and email addresses.  We said we’d keep in touch.  Let’s see if we do.  Or maybe we’ll just meet next year at TedX.

1 Comment

Filed under Change, People, Social Media

One response to “TEDx Toronto 2010 – A Pilgrim On A Shopping Spree

  1. Jim!

    Thank you for your kind words on the presentation from TEDx Toronto! The quotation on leadership is from Harold S. Geneen, the former CEO of ITT. He also said something I always try to remember: “You can’t run a business or anything else on a theory.”

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