What brands can learn about business from TED

Last week Campaign magazine ran a piece about what agencies can learn from TED, focusing of course on the wonderful and diverse ideas from the week.

So I thought I would write a short post about what brands can learn about business as a final comment on TED.

Firstly, I think that TED shows the power of ideas to drive enterprise. If you focus on the idea behind a business rather than money, and make that idea different, beautifully executed and accessible, then the money will take care of itself. The question shouldn’t be how do we make more money, rather how do we increase the value of what we do for consumers.

Second, I think that TED shows us that talk is cheap. It is the easiest thing in the world to talk about something. But the speakers at TED were all doing something about their idea as well. They were taking action, going out into the world and making it happen. And really that is what counts, making something of your idea, differentiating it from the rest and not letting it languish on paper. I would imagine that many banks thought up customer service like First Direct’s in a brainstorm, that there are many dowdy fashion labels who dreamt of reinventing themselves like Burberry and many sneaker brands who have quoted “Just Do It” in a powerpoint chart and then not done it. The people we admire have remembered Edison’s famous quote “genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration”.

Thirdly, TED shows the value of a diverse range of influences and inputs. Creativity, innovation and enterprise are stimulated by applying ideas from field to another. Consider the work of one of the TED Fellows, Frederick Balagadde . He has developed an innovative way of reducing the costs of HIV testing by applying the principles of semiconductors and micro computing to lab testing and so automating the process. It is very hard to learn something new if you are surrounded by the same influences every day.

Finally, TED shows the importance of collaboration and team work – A very obvious point but again worth remembering. On stage at TED, we saw a succession of individuals on stage talking about their work. But in the majority of cases that work had been done or made possible by the efforts and skills of a team of people. Individual genius is very tempting to believe in, but very rare. Teamwork is important, not because it makes people feel better or it is part of being a good manager, teamwork is important because that is the best way of making amazing things happen.


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