Amazing Ideas in Business from TED2018
At TED2018, the program aimed to highlight amazement in all its forms. Because the Brightline Initiative is all about helping organizations move from idea to implementation, we were onsite at TED2018, looking for insights. Whether you’re a C-suite executive, a startup founder or a star employee, these ideas will push and challenge you to incredible end.
The Age of Amazement
Amazement can come in many forms. It arrives as surprise, astonishment, awe, terror, consternation, bewilderment and wonder, all giving way to curiosity and an utter sense of humbleness in the face of our world. At TED2018, the program aimed to highlight amazement in all its forms. With more than 100 mainstage speakers, 26 TED Fellows presentations and scores of special guests hosting workshops and events, the conference featured important ideas that stirred all kinds of emotions. And, most of all, a sense of possibility.
In business, so much can spark amazement — a great idea that suggests a new market, a product or service that becomes a part of people’s lives, a plan that has an entirely different effect than what was predicted. Because the Brightline Initiative is all about helping organizations move from idea to implementation, we were onsite at TED2018, looking for insights. Whether you’re a C-suite executive, a startup founder or a star employee, these ideas will push and challenge you to incredible end.
Table of Contents
How to restore trust and get “GRACED”
If you’d met Harvard Business School professor Frances Frei six months ago, she would’ve been wearing an Uber T-shirt. That’s because she was brought in to restore the culture at the transportation behemoth, and she’d agreed to wear her shirt until other employees felt proud to wear theirs, too. What happened at Uber was something devastating for any business, she says — trust in it had eroded. According to Frei, trust is like a stool with three key legs: empathy, logic and authenticity.
Let’s explore new revenue streams for online service
If you’re not paying, then you’re probably the product. We all understand this to be true. But is it acceptable? And is it a sustainable way for businesses to operate? TED2018 took place against the backdrop of Mark Zuckerberg testifying to Congress after the Cambridge Analytica data breach, and several speakers confronted the model that led to it.
How to mentally reframe the impossible
Gwynne Shotwell was employee number seven at SpaceX. An engineer by training, she’s now the company’s president and COO, working side-by-side with Elon Musk. In an interview with TED curator Chris Anderson, Shotwell shared the key to her job satisfaction: that when Elon asks for something that sounds impossible, she holds her tongue. “I can’t say, ‘That’s impossible,’ or ‘That’s not going to happen,’ or ‘I don’t know how to do that.’ I zip it and then try to figure it out,” she says. This almost always involves breaking the larger problem down into smaller, easier-to-accomplish parts.
The doughnut for growth
The concept of GDP was invented in the 1930s, but we’re still addicted to the idea of growing it, says Oxford economist Kate Raworth. We think about economic progress as a line going up, up, up on the diagonal — companies must keep growing their revenue, people must make more and more, and governments need GDP to constantly rise so they don’t have to raise taxes. But Raworth points out that we’ve created a airplane like no other, because it can never be allowed to land.
Unconventional applications for AI
Artificial intelligence is on the way, and it will change everything. At TED2018, several speakers addressed some of the less obvious, more intriguing implications.
César Hidalgo of the MIT Media Lab wondered: Could AI improve democracy? Only a slim percentage of people vote, and even fewer make their desires known to the legislators who represent them. What if we could each teach an AI to advocate on our behalf — either automatically, or with our sign-off on each decision?
The identity ring
We use an awful lot of methods to prove who we are. We all walk around with wallets full of ID cards — government issued ones, employee badges, credit cards, public transit passes. Meanwhile, our keychains clank in our pockets, and we’re constantly asked to come up with passwords with increasingly hard-toremember parameters. When our data is compromised, we get new credit card numbers or set up two-step authentication. It’s some solace, but not enough.
“The internet was built in such a way that computers could be easily identified, but humans couldn’t,” says Melanie Shapiro. “So we came up with all these weak stand-ins.”
A bank of one’s own
Chetna Gala Sinha grew up in Mumbai but moved to a small village after college when she fell in love. There, she made friends with a female blacksmith named Kantabai. Kantabai wanted to open a bank account — but her application was denied because she planned to save just 15 rupees a day (about 15 cents). Sinha had the idea to register for a license to open a bank herself and serve women microentrepreneurs like Kantabai.
Your near-future shopping list
From a pill to help healing to a a pocket-sized camera with 16 lenses that uses machine learning to stitch together images from its 52-megapixel sensor.
The hidden cost of cooling
Seventeen percent of all the electricity used worldwide goes to cooling systems. Air conditioners, refrigerators, coolers for server rooms — all of these require a tremendous amount of energy, says applied engineer Aaswath Raman. Cooling systems are a major contributor to global warming, accounting for 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. And as the planet heats up, these emissions will only get worse, leading us into a dangerous feedback loop. “What keeps me up at night is that the energy use for cooling might grow six-fold by the year 2050,” says Raman.
Doing business to do good
Moral philosopher Will MacAskill asks a perplexing question: With so many problems out there, how do we decide which ones to tackle? He suggests an interesting framework: that we look for problems that are big, solvable and neglected. Easy to say, harder to do. Yet throughout the conference, many people stepped onstage who are doing just that. In many ways, TED2018 was a celebration of social entrepreneurship, highlighting the incredible things that can happen when people apply business principles to problems that meet these criteria.
Design for inclusion
Stephen DeBerry of Bronze Investments gave a fascinating look at “The East Side Dilemma.” He’s referring to the fact that, in both the US and globally, economically disadvantaged communities tend to live on the East side of town. This is because the wind blows to the East in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, which means smog from smokestacks and soot from train tracks travels in that direction.