I’m sorry, but any organization that has the name TED: Ideas Worth Spreading is clearly worthy of some recognition and an Ann Written Note. Let me tell you about how I met this clever little organization called TED. A little over three years ago, I was at a leadership conference with a colleague of mine named Jerry Ferguson. Jerry is a special person and I love Jerry for many reasons, but a few really stand out. First, he’s rarely – not to be confused with really – serious and in corporate America, that’s very refreshing (and for all of you out there reading this who think he’s serious, game over, he has you fooled). Second, he made me laugh every single day (he has since moved to NY to our corporate offices). Third, while he may not have had great ideas every single day, there would be the day that he would say something brilliant while I would simultaneously be thinking, “it’s about freakin time.” If you know Jerry, you know what I mean. He’s patient and he will choose not to respond to an email, despite the red exclamation point and regardless of who it is from, until he has a thoughtful response. And when the glorious day would come where Jerry would come into my office holding his grande Starbucks coffee, his black moleskin and perfect ballpoint pen (that I would always steal from him), sit down in his well-pressed pants he bought online and share something brilliant, I cherished it.
Back to the conference he and I attended three years ago. This conference is one of the most inspirational annual conferences out there in my humble opinion: The Global Leadership Summit, founded by the Willow Creek Association. That was the first year I attended this and if I died tomorrow, my prayer would be that any and all leaders would attend the 2012 Summit. I promise you will be rocked and moved and humbled and you will learn a robust amount of information, regardless of your 9-to-5 career. Jerry and I learned a lot and it was fun to experience this with him as we had the same goal which was for us as individuals to develop as leaders and bring back 2-3 things to our team. One of the things I learned was the extreme importance of reading (yes, I know you may be thinking, wow, Ann, that was what you learned?! Just bear with me…). There is a quote that I will butcher that my husband has taught me and it goes something like this. All great leaders are readers but not all readers are leaders. Three years ago at the 2008 Summit I was convicted of this exact point as I had been leading a team and pushing hard but all the while, I was the one who actually needed to walk the walk. Or read a book. Walking…reading…same difference. And so I introduced Book Club to my team. I figured if I needed to read more than they probably need to read more, too. I’m sure they were thrilled. And during the summit, Jerry and I had the pleasure of hearing Chip and Dan Heath speak so our first book of Book Club was Made to Stick. Great book, btw.
After our second book of Book Club, I was graced with the glorious Jerry Starbucks brilliant idea moment in my office.
Jerry: Ann, I have an idea.
Ann: It’s about time, Jerry. What is it?
Jerry: TED Talk Thursday.
Ann: Who is TED and what are you talking about?
Jerry: Let’s take book club to the next level and start watching TED talks in the office. You know, let’s go from Good to Great (second book we read for Book Club…another great read).
Ann: I don’t get it.
Jerry: I will send you one to watch and you will see.
Fast forward after I had watched a TED talk (or 4) and low and behold, TED Talk Thursdays started in our office. Again, I am sure the team was thrilled 🙂 We would start at 8:30am, watch/listen to a talk (they are all no longer than 18 minutes) and then talk about it for 20-30 minutes. Brilliant way to start a Thursday. Free training, so to speak. And a great way to encourage innovation and creativity in the workplace.
TED is, in Ann terminology, a genius platform founded by genius entrepreneurs, philanthropists, CEOs, etc. (Chris Anderson, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Meg Ryan to name a few) to allow for famous and average people alike to share their ideas. In 18 minutes or less. At an annual TED conference. If chosen as having the best idea (not sure how that piece of it works), that lucky (and likely very smart and creative) person receives $100k and One Wish to Change the World. Oh yeah, no big deal, just one wish to change the world. A-mazing. And and no, Oprah is not part of this. Click here if you want the real explanation of what TED is.
Ever since my first date with TED and trusting in Jerry’s brilliance, I have been totally inspired by the level of creativity and passion that human beings have. The talks are about anything and everything, quite literally, and they are meant to be shared. I am always challenged after listening and watching them. I have anxiety and sometimes will actually sweat (exaggeration for increased engagement in my blog) while watching them because I am so freakin’ revved up and on fire and wanting to change the world.
As you could imagine, when I heard that TED was coming to Chicago in October, I started sweating again. Who did I know that could get me a ticket to this conference to watch these amazing speakers? Hmmm. I wasn’t sure so I applied online like the rest of the desperate TED lovers, thinking, “this application is definitely going into a black hole and I MUST strategize on the whole it’s not what you know, it’s who you know life lesson.” Well, ladies and gents, this past Sunday at 1:56pm, a little emailed popped into my inbox stating “TEDx Midwest Exclusive Invite – 25 World Class Speakers.” It was like I received a winning lottery ticket. I am completely honored, humbled and excited to attend this and I have Jerry Ferguson to thank for sharing with me his love for TED which turned into my own love for TED. If you need me on October 13 or 14, I will be smiling like a dork at The Oriental Theatre in Chicago soaking in a ton of innovative talks and perhaps the next idea for Book Club for my office…or one idea to change the world. Hey, go big or go home, right?!
For the record, we still do Book Club and TED Talk Thursdays in my office.
P.S. Send me a note if you want a recommendation on a talk to watch!
[photo credit: http://www.ted.com]