(This special posting is by Jason Harter. I hope you enjoy it.)
TED stands for technology, entertainment, and design. The mission of TED is to disseminate “ideas worth spreading” mainly through multimedia like YouTube. The TED conference has been operating on and off since 1984 and has hosted talks from the following diverse cast of luminaries: Bill Clinton, Richard Dawkins, Bill Gates, and Larry Page. The two last names are relevant because this article will analyze TED talks that are shaping and revolutionizing business today.
Uploaded in December of 2010, Sheryl Sandberg’s TED talk revolves around the struggles and inequities of women in the workplace. Since 2008, Sheryl Sandberg has served as chief operating officer at Facebook. Sandberg actually has experience in the private and public sector – she served as chief of staff for the United States Department of the Treasury before joining Facebook. During Sandberg’s public and private sector employment, she noticed some odd behaviors that women displayed and some imbalanced workplace gender issues.
An Unusual Message?
Most feminists stress the reality of the glass ceiling, or the artificial economic barrier set against women in the workplace, and general income disparity among the genders. Sheryl Sandberg takes a different tack in explaining gender inequality in the workplace. Sandberg’s contention is that women are not as assertive as men in clamoring for pay raises and extolling their own abilities. In addition, as Sandberg argues, women reach for different goals than men and are weighed down by the societal expectation that only men can be successful. Overall, Sandberg asserts a more psychological or perhaps anthropological rationale for female subjugation in the workplace. Her solution is a call to arms for women’s assertiveness and an appraisal of performance on an objective scale.
Collaborative Consumption or Gimmick?
Australian social commentator and author, Rachel Botsman, uses her time on the TED stage to extol the merits of collaborative consumption. What is collaborative consumption? Simply put, collaborative consumption is the process of bartering, trading, or renting products rather than going the ownership route. Botsman argues that car sharing companies, like Zipcar, and consumer run marketplaces, like eBay, are ecologically friendly and cost-efficient. The process of collaborative consumption involves sharing a product that only took one trip down the assembly line. Botsman also shakily contends that collaborative consumption leads to increased happiness through social interaction. Anyone who’s experienced a sale-gone-wrong on eBay or Amazon understands that happiness isn’t always the end result of a transaction!
Power to the People!
Esteemed journalist, Joseph Pine, gave one of the more memorable talks in TED history when he dissected why consumers value certain companies. Pine’s conclusion seemed to be that consumers yearn for an authentic experience. An authentic experience, in Pine’s worldview, is one in which the customer feels valued as an individual and treated more than a target demographic. Companies like Apple and Starbucks have made a living out of convincing people of their uniqueness, and even goodness in the case of Starbucks’ organic coffee campaign.
More than the Benjamins
Clearly today’s business landscape is plastic. People are flocking to collaborative consumption and consumer authenticity in higher numbers than yesteryear. In fact, these movements are largely unimaginable to a 1950s mentality!
Author Jason Harter started his own Internet company after obtaining a masters in online masters in information technology.
The last word:
TED is a global set of conferences owned by the non-profit Sapling Foundation. The first TED conference was in 1984; annual conferences began in 1990. The TED conference tag line is “ideas worth spreading.” Over a thousand of these talks are currently available at no charge, under a Creative Commons license. This license, somewhat like a software Open Source license, allows others to share, use and build upon a work while preserving the writer’s copyright. I find these talks fascinating, and since they have been viewed more than a billion times, I guess I am not alone. The talks are relatively short, limited to no more than 18 minutes
Many of the TED talks, like the ones mentioned here, are disruptive and maybe even disturbing. They cause you to think differently about things. One of my favorites is Jane McGonigal’s Gaming can make a better world. If you like that one, enter “video games” in the search box of the TED site and sample the other nine focused on video games (as of this writing) that pop up.
I especially like the talks that are not exactly about what I do or even what I like. For example, I am not a fan of the world-simulation massively multiplayer online role-playing games like World of Warcraft. OK, I did post a blog on the game, but mostly to show how Cloud Computing was impacting even the video game market. Yet, Jane’s blog opened an entirely different understanding as to what was really happening to the people that are playing these games, and how those skills could be harnessed to solve real problems.
This posting is an experiment. The goals are to add a little variety to the point of view I’m offering, hopefully give the guest author a wider audience, and, of course, to broaden the reach of this blog. What do you think? Good idea?
Keep your sense of humor.