Twelve fast-paced hours, 700+ other change makers and an incredible line up of speakers. That’s what was in store for me for me first TED experience.
This past May, I arrived at the Civic Theatre Downtown Grand Rapids for my first TED conference, surrounded by hundreds of other civic-minded people committed to the spread of ideas and the reinforcement of positive change in the world.

For those who may not know, TED is an international organization and movement dedicated to the spread of ideas worth spreading. TEDx Grand Rapids is an independently organized TED experience created in order to connect hundreds of people to one another and learn new concepts and perspectives on issues afflicting our society on a daily basis.

What did I take away from TEDxGR?

First, I was provided a reminder that it’s the people who make Grand Rapids so great. TED also reminded me of the consecutiveness of the universe; as another “TED-ster” said to me by the end of the conference, “things are meant to be.” Sometimes what may appear as an accident or coincidence in life is actually a new path that has been waiting for us to stumble across.

Below are the top ten thoughts I am taking away from TEDx Grand Rapids this year:

1. INNOVATION: Scarcity is the grand mother of innovation. Identify a problem, and in spite of limited resources, still ask “What if.” … “What if a refrigerator could be created, without the use of electricity?” Even the impossible can be done (Simone Ahuja)

2. ON LIFE: Life is a gift given so that we can help others (Jose Bright).

3. DREAMS: We all have dreams and the power to turn those dreams to reality. Failure can be the beginning of the journey to success. In fact, if you are not seeing any failure than you are not trying hard enough. Know your natural abilities and limitations, and perhaps most importantly – if you don’t go and get it, someone else will (J.A. Mustapha). As Lori Schneider, obstacle remover later discussed, the success is in the journey. Breathe, climb mountains, dream big…bigger.

4. IDENTITY: Don’t ever forget who you are and where you came from (J.A. Mustapha- Go Getter).

5. SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Business is at the heart of building a better world. Aim to develop products and services with life-saving or life-enhancing effects. You have power as individuals, community, and as a company. You have a responsibility. (Gurjit Lalli – Social Entrepreneur). Fred Keller, CEO of Cascade Engineering later discussed that corporations have an obligation for social responsibility but sometimes it is not always connected to the needs of the world when it should. Change happens best when communities come around issues (and businesses help develop this conversation). We need leaders who can build business AND community.

6. DIGITAL CIVIL SOCIETY: The new civil society is in the data age. Online social networks are becoming the community and place where people get together to exchange ideas and make change happen. We need to get everyone access to these places (Lucy Bernholz).

7. CREATIVITY AND PASSION: Everyone has a spark of creativity. Saying you are not creative is merely a self-defense mechanism. You need to find time to let creativity flow, even if it means sacrificing other activities. As for performing and showing off your creativity and sharing thoughts outloud—if you are passionate about something, the nerves will go away (Punksuhate).

8. ALLOWING DISCOVERY: The strategic planning orthodoxy: Strategic planning puts deadlines before discovery. While it can be useful when we are certain of our true challenges, it can also be toxic when there is uncertainly or when we may not know where to start (Greg Galle)

9. REACHING SOLUTIONS: Six practices for reaching solutions: 1. Be bold. 2. Get out (go places!) 3. Think wrong (it’s okay to break social norms and discover). 4. Make stuff. 5. Bet small. 6. Move fast (Greg Galle).

10. TAKING ACTION: Looking back at historic events, including genocide, had there not been intervention millions more may have been exploited. There are stories of people, oftentimes even famous visionaries, who later expressed regret for not acting sooner, if at all. One person may not be able to change the mindset of a culture, but together if we all act we may be able to become a culture changer (Evan Grace

Perhaps the most remarkable part of a TED experience is that while the day eventually comes to a close, the conversations and spread of ideas never cease. TEDxGrand Rapids – the conversation continues.

Blog Post by Whitney Ehresman, Business Development Manager at Advanced Technology Recycling

If you like this post please share using buttons on left (for individual posts only). 
If you like to guest blog, please contact John M Potter. John serves as GRAPE’s Host. You can find him on Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.