How TED Connects the Idea-Hungry Elite – Fast Company
Inside the World’s MOST EXCLUSIVE (and Most Accessible) CLUB with SPECIAL GUESTS including
By Anya Kamenetz September 1, 2010
Elizabeth Gilbert • Richard Branson • Jamie Oliver • Malcolm Gladwell • Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala • Barry Schwartz • Ken Robinson • Sarah Silverman • Bill Clinton • David Byrne • Bill Gates • Craig VenterJill • Bolte Taylor • Dave Eggers • Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy • Sunitha Krishnan • Tony Robbins • Julia Sweeney • Isabel Allende • E.O. Wilson • and the chief himself, Chris Anderson!
The other day, I got an email from a new friend. The subject line read “Are you a TED talk person?” It linked to an 18-minute video of MIT behavioral economist Dan Ariely talking about the bugs in our moral codes. Other friends have sent me videos of Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert on the spiritual dimension of creativity; rocker David Byrne on how venue architecture affects musical expression; and UC Berkeley professor Robert Full’s insights into how geckos’ feet stick to a wall.
Each of these emails is like a membership card into the club of “TED talk people.” I love being a member of this club. The videos give my discovery-seeking brain a little hit of dopamine in the middle of the workday. But just as important, each one I see or recommend makes me part of a group of millions of folks around the world who have checked out these videos. What links us is our desire to learn; TEDsters feel part of a curious, engaged, enlightened, and tech-savvy tribe.
These two things — great ideas and the human connections they create — make TED a unique phenomenon. Other conferences, such as the World Economic Forum in Davos and D: AllThingsDigital in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, have similar elite A-list rosters. But TED, which takes place annually in Long Beach, California, is the only one that fully exploits the power of what you might call, with apologies to Cisco, the human network. In the nine years since publishing entrepreneur Chris Anderson bought TED, it has grown way beyond a mere conference. By combining the principles of “radical openness” and of “leveraging the power of ideas to change the world,” TED is in the process of creating something brand new. I would go so far as to argue that it’s creating a new Harvard — the first new top-prestige education brand in more than 100 years.
Of course TED doesn’t look like a regular Ivy League college. It doesn’t have any buildings; it doesn’t grant degrees. It doesn’t have singing groups or secret societies, and as far as I know it hasn’t inspired any strange drinking games.