TED Talks About Human Connections; Mark E. Sackett, said he doesn’t care what people do for a living, but, “I care about your passionate purpose.”

June 10, 2014, 5:52 PM ET

TED Talks About Human Connections


NEW YORK — So I finally got to go to one of those TED talks everyone’s so smart and smug about when referencing. Not the actual TED conference, but TEDx – a series of independent events patterned after and licensed by the original TED organization.

Actually, most of us have gotten to know TED through the YouTube channel (over one billion views and counting).

According to Aaron Sylvan, who organized TEDx Fulton Street, here in New York, the first TED talk was organized in 1984 as a private event with no press, a single photographer and, of course, no video. A few hundred people were in attendance for what was supposed to be a one-time event. The non-profit, operating under the motto “ideas worth spreading,” began broadcasting its talks online beginning in 2006. This happened once the airport in Monterey, Calif., where the events were first held, got too full for billionaires to park their jets, Mr. Sylvan jests. The TEDx offshoot was launched in 2009, and its library now contains around 30,000 film presentations from over 130 countries, according to the TED Wikipedia page.

The T in TED stands for technology, but technology seems incidental to much of what most presenters said (the E and D stand, respectively, for entertainment and design). Tuesday afternoon featured some of the inspirational, world-improving, technology-driven messaging you would expect from a TED talk. For example, Gerard Schwarz, a conductor and former music director of New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival, talked about bringing music education to people around the world through the Kahn Academy, a free non-profit online educational organization.

But a surprising number of speakers talked about technology as a barrier rather than a catalyst for human connections. Lori Cheek, founder of online dating app Cheek’d, said when she first came to New York from her Kentucky home, she found the city so anonymous and intimidating that she decided to meet people on the street by using a multicolored plastic toy microphone to intercept people on the street and ask them about themselves.

Ms. Cheek noted that she actually met her husband during a trip to Maine, when she had to turn off her smartphone because she didn’t have a cellular signal. Her business turns online dating on its head – customers hand a physical “business card” with a quirky message to a stranger they’d like to meet, and the stranger then goes online to find out more about them and, if they want, to connect with them.

Which brings us back to TEDx, and the notion of multiplying the number of physical TED events across the world at a time when so much information is available online, and people have so little time to spare. (In addition to TEDx Fulton Street, there are Manhattan, Times Square and Broadway versions held in New York City alone.) With more than 1,700 original, branded, hot-ticket TED talks available online, it doesn’t seem as if the world needs more of those. The whole notion runs counter to the idea that people want to consume content on demand.

But Mr. Sylvan, who has attended nine TED conferences in person,  says the immersive, in-person experience keeps people in the moment more effectively than watching the talks on YouTube. The cost – capped at $100 per person – helps ensure that attendees stay for all the sessions. “The people that you meet in person” are an integral part of the experience and, because they’re live rather than on a desktop or tablet, “you’ve got to leave everything else aside,” he said.

TED, then, is a way of bringing brilliant innovators, many of them in technology fields, in front of growing audiences of people, in order to help them understand that what makes them great, successful and happy isn’t technology at all, but rather a whole set of attributes (you could recite them by heart: vision, perseverance, an ability to communicate their ideas) that you could call human. This doesn’t mean that technology isn’t important or potentially transformative, but it does suggest that technology isn’t where we should look for great ideas and disruptions.

Mark E. Sackett, a serial entrepreneur and speaker who took the stage Tuesday morning, said he doesn’t care what people do for a living, but, “I care about your passionate purpose.”


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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