I attended my first TEDx event last Thursday in Paris.
After discovering TED about a year ago, I was impatient of seeing one in real and I was not disappointed.
TED has something magical
Attending a TEDx conference is like being at a play: the speakers are usually very well prepared and are telling you a story that takes you out of your chair. And from there, you travel on another planet, in another dimension or in someone else’s shoes.
But what’s magical about TED is that there is no fiction. You travel out of space, you travel with new lenses and with very different point of views but you stay in the real world.
“Stop thinking something small isn’t big”
The first speaker at this TEDx conference made me think a lot. His company, which employs 90% of disabled people, currently involves 70 people in the South of France. After explaining his concept and his vision, he paused. “You will ask me what is my initiative compared to the financial and industrial giants that surround us? and I will answer: stop thinking something small isn’t big. That’s when you can start making a difference”.
And the speaker that followed proved us that small CAN be big. She has been working on the Wikipedia project since 2001 and showed us a screen print of what the website was like back then. Wikipedia was small and ugly.
And today, well, Wikipedia is the 5th most visited website in the world. It’s not that small anymore.
This reminded me of a quote: “Start small, fail small, learn big”
I often think about this quote and truly believe the most important step is to start. I read Guy Kawasaki’s Art of the start long back and that’s what I recall in substance: don’t theorize too much, experiment and learn from what reality tells you.
Wikipedia was small and ugly but it was there: contributors could start working on it and make it beautiful.
Start to start by prototyping
This is one critical step when you are designing a new concept or idea: prototyping. Prototyping confronts your idea to the reaction of the real world.
Did you know TED was created in 1984 and that its first event, despite its high quality speakers, was a financial loss? It took 6 years for its founders to launch a second event. By then, they had found the right formula and the audience was ready.
Now imagine TED founders had decided to start big without going through this prototyping and adjusting episode. They would perhaps have organized events in various cities, spending much more and therefore reducing their chances of recovery from this testing phase.
The first TED prototype was not a success. But their founders, like many changemakers knew the following:
Impossible is temporary
And when you think about it, before becoming successful, most of the things were completely impossible: flying (take a plane), seeing the invisible (use X-rays), fit an orchestra in your pocket (put your mp3 player in there), …
The conclusion of my encounter with TED is the following: think HUGE, start SMALL, fail SMALL, learn BIG and reiterate the process until impossible is TINY and your project becomes REALITY. As simple as TED.