TED[you]: Should Your Business Have an Internal Thought Leadership Program?

“Ideas worth spreading.”

That’s the tagline for the TED conference series, today perhaps the best known (and best regarded) venue for sparking conversations, illuminating opportunities, and helping to shape opinions, attitudes, and actions.

TEDx Somerville - Flickr
At TED events worldwide, inventors, teachers, artists, scientists, thinkers, performers, makers, and others share the ideas they’re passionate about.

Delivered simply as a series of presentations, each typically no more than 20 minutes in length, TED conferences focus create two profound opportunities:

  • First, a platform for those with an idea they want to share,
  • And second, a recognized space for those seeking new ideas to listen.

The potential to truly change the future inherent in those opportunities has transformed TED. Once just a Silicon Valley meetup, it’s now an international obsession, with formal TED Talks events held worldwide and hundreds of independent TEDx sessions scheduled in communities large and small. More than 2,000 TED Talks videos are available online (along with recordings from another 30,000 TEDx sessions), and collectively they’ve garnered more than a billion views from audiences looking for insight, information, and inspiration for the future.

Which raises the question: given how successful the TED format has been at bringing new ideas to a broad and interested audience, isn’t this something your business should be trying too?

You Can’t Expect Innovation to “Just Happen” — You Have to Foster It

While every business aspires to innovate, the pressures of quarterly earnings and near-term goals often leave individual employees with no time to look back to the big picture. Worse, even when some new moment of inspiration is had, few if any organizations have a means for employees to press for change. The best they can do is send an email up the chain of command and hope.

That’s left a history littered with companies like the once-venerable Kodak — organizations that followed their own P&L statements right out of existence, as they diligently managed expenses but failed to recognize their market shifting.

Today’s organizations can’t afford to wait and hope good ideas bubble up — they need to make fostering new ideas a priority. And that starts with solving a key challenge: how to connect inspired team members with those who can actually implement those ideas, in a way that’s open and efficient for both.

TED[you]: How You Can Cultivate In-House Innovators

While the need organizations face to actively support long-term innovation is a great one, a powerful solution may in fact be small. TED has cast the form for how big thinkers and ideas seekers can come together. Instituting your own TED-like program can be an easy way to apply a familiar process to supporting the next great big ideas in your organization.

Creating an internal TED-style event series can help daylight niches and markets, opportunities and threats, new tech and creative solutions. It can give your people a place to pitch ideas for initiatives, and give your execs an easy place to turn to for innovation.

Regular TED-style events provide innovators with a clear process
Hosting regular, scheduled events gives everyone time to plan for the work involved. Rather than dashing off half-formed ideas whenever they come up (or sitting on fully formed concepts until the opportunity is missed), innovators are given a target for cultivating their ideas and getting them ready to share.

Regular events mean no ideas get lost in the shuffle
Many organizations expect new ideas to “trickle upward” through the traditional chain of command. This, however, means innovation is permanently a one-off activity. Leaders have little choice but to experience employees’ moments of innovation as a sort of chaos — an unexpected email that demands they put down what they’re doing and consider some unexplored facet of the big picture. And if any one link the chain doesn’t have the time or can’t make the connection, the idea hits a dead-end.

Video ensures every idea is seen — and can be saved and shared later as well
While it’s the ideas shared that are the focus of conversation, it’s video that has helped catapult the TED conference into national prominence. Shared online, recordings of TED events are easy to circulate and share, helping to ensure the right inspiration meets the right support. And as the event specializes in presenting big, world-changing ideas, video makes it possible to hang on to what would otherwise be a fleeting moment presented live, to store it where it can be re-watched and acted on when the time is right.

Regular events remind team members that your business cares about innovation
In an era where everyone’s focused on the bottom line, it’s not uncommon to hear grousing about “myopic” organizations that “can’t see past the end of the quarter.” Hosting regular TED-style events can help companies make clear their commitment to progress — and that inside their walls, ideas are welcome from everyone. It’s a message even those who don’t participate will recognize and value.

Best of all, while the TED events themselves have become recognizable for their superlative production value, holding a similar event within your own walls can often require little more than booking a meeting space and sending a few emails announcing the initiative.

To see just what’s possible — and just how easy it can be — check out the GRADx event, a TED-style showcase held by Duke University this past semester showcasing some of the big ideas of the university’s graduating class.

Duke GRADx Event - Panopto Video Platform
Once you’ve set a date for your in-house TED event and started scheduling presentations, be sure to plan for recording and sharing everything. A modern enterprise video platform — the same tool many organizations already rely on for scaling training and delivering corporate communications — will make this easy as well. With a video platform like Panopto you can record from anywhere with just a laptop and webcam. And once your event’s complete, your video platform will automatically upload everything, transcode it for optimal playback on-demand on any device, and even index every word spoken or shown on-screen for quick search and discovery when the time is right.

Panopto makes it easy for anyone, anywhere to record presentations and share them online, both as live streaming webcasts and recorded on-demand video. To see how Panopto can help your organization share and discover ideas, contact our team for a free trial today.

Published: July 23, 2015