TED Active 2014: Recap

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In mid-March I had the privilege of attending my first ever TED conference, and while it has taken me a while to finally post a recap from my experience.  Many people have asked me “How was TED” and I usually just respond “Amazing” because it is so hard to describe.  So here goes my attempt at outlining some of the most fun and intellectually stimulating days I have ever experienced.

When I was getting ready to attend the conference, I knew I was going to be watching a plethora of TED talks but outside of that, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.  The experience ended up being so much more than just the Talks themselves, it was the people, the discussions, and the experiences that truly makes TED what it is.  Here is what I found:

  • The Talks – Yes the talks were amazing, but very hard to sum up. Some were just funny, others about the newest developments in technology and others from people really trying to affect change.  I made a commitment to attend each talk, and even the talks I may not have normally clicked on when watching TED at home, I attended.  This proved to be so valuable because of the truly broad and inspiring set of ideas I was exposed to (i.e. Sting singing, Firefly communities, etc.).  I found this post from TED following the conference outlining the 5 days of talks on one page.
  • The People – This is by the far the best part of the conference.  I found 700 other people all on my wave length and all doing very interesting things.  From a successful venture capitalist to the head of Target’s design group to a NASA space economist I truly met and made connections that I will foster for a long time to come.
  • The Experiences – TED really knows how to put on a world class event.  From mountain top parties to design workshops hosted by leaders in the field, there was always a ton of activities and stimuli to choose from.
  • The Follow-Up – Its been a few weeks but I am still talking to and in touch with many of the people I met during the conference.  The global connections are likely ones I will rekindle as I travel but we have even been participating in Google Hangout sessions to keep the conversations going.

All in all, TED was an amazing experience and one I hope to repeat for years to come.  It’s more than great ideas, its a community and movement that is something worth experiencing and being a part of.

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Innovation Field Trips

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One of the things I am sure of when it comes to being more innovative and fostering a unique perspective is travel.  I have had the pleasure to work, study, and visit a number of countries around the world and each time I learn something new. However, the experiences I cherished most were my work and study trips where I learned about more than just the local architecture and landmarks.  Having the opportunity to observe, discuss and apply the local culture and business climate to my work back home has proven extremely valuable.  My recent exploration was around seeing if there is a way to continue getting those global business experiences after we have graduated or if we are working locally while only a few weeks in duration.

So instead of “Adventure Travel” I started looking for “Educational Travel” and I found a few resources.  A lot of these trips are great for broadening your horizons and learning new areas (read being “T-Shaped”) but there was overwhelmingly a lack of business or design focused trips and experiences.

Professional Volunteering

Professional volunteering is a great way to give back but also get a real inside look into how companies operate in other countries.  Most of these experiences tend to push my original time limit and can last from 2weeks-6months:

  • VSO(USA)/CUSO(Canada) – This organization is very well developed and has great opportunities.  There is a formal application process, training and support on the ground as well as some support on living costs.  The work that volunteers do is very impactful and ranges from SMB support to market assessments to web development.
  • Kaya – These are a bit shorter and require payment to participate but the trips are shorter in length.
  • UN Volunteers – Projects ranging in complexity and length for qualified professionals.
  • More Opportunities – Check out a larger list

Local University Travel

The local university in my city offers a number of short-term group travel opportunities for both continuing education and registered students.  One thing I discovered is if you already have a degree it may be possible to register as an “open student” or in a general degree program and gain access to some of these courses.

Organized Tours

This was the hardest category to find any potential providers in.  Here are a few I found:

  • ExploraInternational Innovation Tour – An organized tour to three innovation hubs (Silicon Valley, Signapore and Israel)
  • The A Factor – Focused on driving connections in 5 day exploration journeys.  The first event is planned for Nairobi with many other cities planned for the future.
  • eBike Berlin Design Tour – A one off event linked to a conference, but a unique model

Executive Education Abroad

There are a number of executive education programs offered from schools such as Harvard, HKU, and Insead among others that can offer a short-term international experience if you have the budget (programs can range from $5,000-$20,000 USD).

Have you found anything else?