Freeworld goes to TED Global

by Sean Wood on August 25, 2011 · 0 comments

in Blog

TED Global 2011

Attending a TED conference is an intense, immersive experience where the speakers distill a lifetime of experience into an 18-minute presentation on the TED stage.  When done well, their carefully-planned, well-rehearsed talks leave an unforgettable impact on the audience.

This is the third time that I’ve attended the TED Global conference on behalf of Freeworld Media. Each one has proven to be a life-changing experience and this year’s event was amazing.

The name, TED, stands for three of my favorite things… Technology, Entertainment and Design. The previous two TED Globals were held in Oxford, England and this one was hosted in Edinburgh, Scotland — home of the Scottish Enlightenment.

The Stuff of Life

The theme of TED Global 2011 was “The Stuff of Life” which asked the question… “How can it be better lived?”  This set the tone for the conference that challenged the attendees with a rich new perspective.  My big takeaway was that although there seems to be alot of problems in the world, there IS an answer out there and it’s up to all of us to rethink the life we want to create and question the systems that operate our world.

Taking a step back from the individual talks themselves, is a well-orchestrated event thanks to TED curators, Chris Anderson and Bruno Giussani.  They assemble a roster of speakers around a theme intended to create an intellectual journey for those in attendance.  By the end of the conference, people leave with their brains practically rewired as a result of their exposure to new ideas that challenge their worldview.

What happens on stage helps to accellerate the discussions that happen between the talks.  I had fantastic conversations with optimistic leaders from around the world that ranged from economics, world politics, environmental issues, the future of business, science, breakthrough mobile technology and urban planning.

Here are three interesting TED Talks that really stood out in terms the impact that I can bring back to our Freeworld clients.

Edinburgh Castle

1. Paul Bloom: The Origins of Pleasure

The opening party was held on Monday night at the Edinburgh Castle.  I wound up accidently hanging out in the speakers lounge where I met people scheduled to speak later that week.  One discussion that really stood out was with Yale Professor Paul Bloom where we talked about neuroscience and how it applies to marketing and communications.

During his presentation, Bloom explained how people derive more pleasure interacting with things that have an uniquely emotional story attached to them.  It’s been proven that our beliefs about the history of an object can change how we experience it.

Understanding the psychological connections that storytelling creates has tremendous implications for brand marketers and social media content creators.  At Freeworld we will use this knowledge to create better Content Strategy for our clients.  And by creating more engaging stories, we can enhance the relationship people have with a product or brand.

Many of his Yale classroom videos are available online.

2. Paul Zak: The Moral Molecule

Where does trust & empathy come from?  “NeuroEconomist” Paul Zak talked about his research with the human hormone oxytocin and it’s economic impact.  His research shows that when oxytocin is stimulated, it makes people more generous, empathetic and helpful. You may know about the importance of oxytocin in pregnancy but it can also be released during things like massage, praying and dancing.

I was thrilled to learn that social media produces a double dose of oxytocin!  It creates a better sense of trust and as he said…  “where there is more trustworthiness, there is more prosperity.”  

“Civilization is dependent on oxytocin. You can’t live around people you don’t know intimately unless you have something that says: Him I can trust, and this one I can’t trust.”  

Key Takeaway: Connecting your brand to positive, happy feelings is good for your bottom line.

Zak sprays Oxytocin on stage. (Photo: James Duncan Davidson / TED Conferences)

3. Tim Hartford: Trial, error and the God complex

Here “The Undercover Economist” talks about how people are not as smart as they may think they are.  This leads to huge problems when people jump to certain assumptions.  The arrogant “God Complex” is dangerous when people feel a sense of over-confidence in their decision-making ability.   The world is very complex — and complex systems are built through trial and error.

Key Learnings: Experimenting leads to success.  Don’t be afraid to make “good mistakes”.

The thing I love about the TED network is how it encourages people to share their ideas through what has become a new interconnected learning system.  This is promising and I hope it helps all of us develop a deeper understanding of the world.


Also be sure to check out the TED Conference App on iTunes.


A Matter of Life and death.

by Sean Wood on August 16, 2009 · 0 comments

in Blog

“From an economical perspective, innovation is a matter of life and death.  A company must innovate today if it wants to be in business tomorrow. For a company to succeed, it not only must be much better than its competitors, but it also must anticipate where its future competition will come from and what it will offer.

Today, business leaders are turning innovation into a major driver for better solutions, experiences, and sustainable business.  In fact, the most successful leaders apply innovation across every business process, from behavioral strategy and market research to financial, leadership, and business models.”
- from a fine line, by harmut esslinger.  used totally without permission

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet the very impressive President of frog design at the TED Global Conference.  The mission of frog is to “create and bring to market meaningful products, services, and experiences” to some of the worlds biggest brands. They do this by understanding “the culture of technology and the design of business.”

Since then, I’ve been reading “a fine line” from Harmut Esslinger. He’s the creative visionary and founder of frog design that has spent forty years building the world’s most recognizable brands.  In this book, he talks about how companies can achieve better business through better design and about the very real challenges facing businesses in the new global economy.

“As a realistic optimist, I believe in a better future.”

Esslinger shows how business leaders and designers can work together using creative strategies to build a more profitable and sustainable future.  The book talks about how he evolved frog design from an industrial design shop to a global innovation powerhouse.

Here are some rapid fire soundbites from Harmut…

In talking to the firm’s leadership, it is clear that frog’s corporate culture is their first priority.  The key to their creative process is that by creating a positive work environment, they enable their talent to create innovative ideas for their clients.   This think-tank atmosphere gives great minds a place to incubate big ideas and leads to successful services and products.

The Creative Corporate Mind

“The fourth level of design, is made up for highly creative, strategic thinkers who are fluent in convergent technologies, social and ecological needs, and business.  The mission that all busines leaders should adopt for their organizations’ design efforts — is to create physical and virtual objects that are inspirational in the usefulness, beauty and social/environmental responsibility, which at the same time supporting business’s strategic goals.

This mission forces the foundation for any organization’s creative strategy and drives its tacticial implementation.  For business leaders pursuing and innovation-driven business model, strategic designers are essential partners.”

Their unique way of re-thinking complex business problems from a design perspective breaks the mold of traditional creative agencies.   To create success in business, the big thinkers should be brought together with business specialists that are able to implement and sell those big ideas.

“As designers, we are uniquely qualified to feel and see opportunities that might be invisible to our more “rational” professional partners.  And the business leaders we partner with may be attuned to exciting opportunities that haven’t even crossed our minds.”

- from a fine line, by harmut esslinger.  used totally without permission

How are you going to stay ahead of the competition?

In the new economy, change is expected and should be encouraged.  If you’re a business leader, think about what you are doing to improve your brand and ask yourself these questions:

- Do you value safety over innovation?

- What will your business do differently to remain competitive?

- What systemic changes will you make to keep your top talent performing at their peak?

Stay ahead of your competition by continually defining your brand as an innovator in the field. The key to relevance in a fast moving economy is to put innovation at the core of your business, which enables your entire organization to adapt, anticipate and act.