systems thinking

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.


From Data to Social Wisdom

by Sean Wood on September 22, 2010 · 1 comment

in Blog

“Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

- T.S. Eliot, “Choruses from ‘The Rock’”

“Drinking from the Firehose”

If you’ve ever spent too much time reading RSS feeds, twitter streams, blogs and Facebook updates, you understand the analogy of trying to “drink from the firehouse.”   There is simply too much information for one person to take in and the future of the web is in providing better filters.  A good framework to understand networked communications and interactions is with systems thinking.

The first step of any successful social media strategy is to listen.  This helps you understand the conversations in your area of interest and allows you to make an appropriate, better-informed response.  Currently, there are over 150 Social Media Monitoring Software packages available.

These applications pull in open data streams and return relevant information to the user by taking into account such things as sentiment analysis, user influence, and real-time insights.  Social CRMs are also an effective way to tackle the issue of “intimacy at scale.”  As excellent as many of these technologies are, they can only take you so far in understanding the richness of the online social marketplace.

Because of the human element of the social web (feelings, emotions, and meaning), not everything can be measured and managed through technology.  At Freeworld we use a hybrid approach to provide the most intelligent business value to our clients.

Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom

In the early days of the web, it was all about eye-balls and click-throughs to measure success. But in the social media world of “web2.0″, there are more nuanced factors to consider.  The DIKW Pyramid is a framework used to understand the functional relationship between Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom.  Data and Information deal with technology, but Knowledge and Wisdom are where the human element comes in and must be considered to make the best decision.


Raw and unstructured – it has no context or meaning.


Data that has been given meaning by way of relational connection.


The application of data and information; answers “how” questions.  Human understanding comes into and asks “Why?”


Evaluated understanding.

Context  & Understanding

Commonly used in systems intelligence and knowledge management, the DIKW Model of Innovation shows how context and understanding are related.  Only once you understand Knowledge can you forecast the future.

DIKW Context + UnderstandingData:

It can exist in any form, usable or not and has no meaning.


A look at past data to understand relations.  This provides answers to “who”, “what”, “where”, and “when” questions


A look at past information to understand patterns.  How does collective intelligence fit into the flow between people and objects?


An evaluated understanding of principles to make future decisions.  This calls upon levels of consciousness and human attributes like moral and ethical codes.  A broader understanding of knowledge uses the insights gained to make recommendations about future decisions.

Wisdom is the ability to increase effectiveness. Wisdom adds value, which requires the mental function that we call judgment. The ethical and aesthetic values that this implies are inherent… unique and personal.[18]

Social media monitoring technologies look at past events and manage real-time data, but the next level is how to predict behavior and prepare an appropriate response. This is where knowledge leads to understanding and begins to form social wisdom.

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