Several weeks ago (Newsletter/blog 517) we discussed TED talks and Jeremey Donovan’s excellent book on How to Deliver a TED talk. Here’s a follow-up about TED from the April issue of Harvard Business Review:
“In 2009, TED, an organization of highly respected conferences on ‘ideas worth spreading,’ threw its doors open, allowing anyone, anywhere, to manage and stage local, independent events under its banner.” Before long an army of volunteers produced roughly 5,000 TEDx events in more than 130 countries. The brand extension gave TED fresh exposure and impact but it “came with some risk: TED no longer completely controlled its brand, and an extended community of people who didn’t work for TED were now capable of damaging it. And when TEDx licensees began putting dubious pseudoscientific presentations on their programs, the risk became a real threat. The blogosphere trashed TED for producing dumb content and questioned its overall credibility.”
Have you ever had this experience? You produce something, share it and lose control. It is hard to stop the momentum of a run-away train, especially one with ideas that are popular and profitable for others. The TED management needed to take action or its reputation and business would crash. Their example could help any organization and maybe applies to individuals.
Speaking privately to the local TEDx organizers was not productive so management took a different approach:
- “Listen Loudly.” This meant engaging with the critics through a variety of public forums, asking questions and getting feedback. As a result everyone knew that the management was hearing the complaints and was both open and determined to correct the problems.
- Share Purpose. A crowd was turning against TED. To turn them around the goal was to realign everybody around the shared purpose of quality presentations with “ideas worth spreading.” This was shepherding, not dictating or giving directions.
- Refine Boundaries. TED management was clear about what parts of the business were open for innovation and what needed to be controlled to prevent misuse of the system.
Being open does not mean giving everything away. But when others are engaged to make something better, together, then everyone in the community can learn, adapt, and grow. Please comment with your reactions.