Product Innovation Trends

TEDx Portland: No project is too daring if you’re passionate about it.

On April 21, a few of us attended the Portland TEDx session, which brought in speakers like Hideshi Hamaguchi, Sahar Alnouri, and David Terry. Per the typical TED: Ideas worth spreading format, each speaker was given about 12 minutes to talk about this year’s topic: uncharted territory. Topics ranged from innovative design philosophies in architecture, restorative ecological programs, strategy & idea concepting, and the invisible world of microorganisms. During the event, we saw 14 live talks – along with a few ted.com favorites. Here’s a little bit of what we heard:

Photo from Waggener Edstrom
Photo from Waggener Edstrom

Finding Portland on Vimeo – No project is too daunting if you’re passionate about it.
Ben Canales and John Waller make up Uncage the Soul Productions, who originally put together Finding Oregon, a 4-minute timelapse video. This video took six months of intense photography (from sleeping in trees to climbing mountains) over 1600 miles of Oregon with over 700 pounds of gear. For TEDx, they spent 5 weeks putting together Finding Portland, timelapse photography of Portland. It took an average of 3.8 hours to make each second of the short film.

Their projects are amazing, and help explain why we love Portland as much as we do. But what was really inspiring about these two was the passion they had for their projects. They said, if there’s something you’re passionate about – dedicate 10,000 hours to it. Make it happen.

“This path is mine.”
David Terry, Director of Strategic Planning at W+K,  is a tough guy. He’s always been an adventurer and athlete, a triple-blackbelt in Kung Fu – and most recently, an avid cyclist.

He begins by wheeling up a bike and a tank of oxygen. He sets both aside as an image of him in biking gear, covered in mud from head to toe, appears onscreen. He explains that when he feels vulnerable, he deals with pain and challenges through athletic activities. “I’ve never been an athlete,” he says, “but I’ve often felt greater by being an athlete.”

A few minutes into his session, David wheels up his bike and says, “this bike is mine – it’s my favorite. But I can’t ride it.” In 2011, David was diagnosed with a lung disease that makes walking up stairs, lifting his kids, or giving a presentation difficult. He can’t ride his bike. He can’t run. He’s been dealt the biggest challenge of his life, and he can’t process it the way he’s used to. And what’s worse, it’s undiagnosable. Over the last year, David’s been trying to work out what his disease is and means for him. What he’s learned? Knowing, not knowing, it doesn’t matter [Kung fu lesson coming…]. It’s his path. We each have our own, and we have to own it – take what comes and grow from it.

Drive creativity.
Hideshi Hamaguchi, Director of Strategy for Ziba, concepted the world’s first USB flash drive. He’s a leader in creative concept development, building strategy, and decision management. He explained, as we try to concept ideas, we always try to think outside the box (or chart). We have too much freedom and chaos. Instead, Hideshi suggests putting together “structured chaos.” Think about the way people currently perceive what you’re trying to improve. Determine the bias that exists. Why do people see something a particular way? What’s the purpose? What are they trying to achieve? Then, break the bias. Think about how to do that in a new way – simplifying what already exists – doing it a new, better way that’s more efficient, effective, or achieves the goal.

A unit of evil costs two units of good.
Joe Whitworth is president of the Freshwater Trust. During his presentation, he explained that with our current method of environmental reform, we can never catch up to the devastation we create. There’s too much bureaucracy in the way. We need a new method that leverages today’s technology and creates a better relationship with the economy to make gains on environmental reform and not just hold the line. Today, environmental reform conflicts with the economy – it’s expensive, and it can prohibit big business. As he says, “the economy doesn’t understand the environment, and the environment doesn’t understand the economy.” Joe talked about Oregon’s response to solving freshwater problems, and shows President Obama’s response: Obama: Medford Has The Right Idea | ecotrope.opb.org [this link is to Obama’s speech in text, video is linked to article]. It explains how we can think of solutions that work for business, for farmers, and for the environment (in this case, salmon).

A great ted.com talk on vulnerability: Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability | Video on TED.com

A great ted.com talk on education reform: Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity | Video on TED.com

What’s your favorite Ted talk? Have you attended a conference?