What If You’re Not a Rocket Scientist?

Posted on July 19, 2011 by 1 Comment

This past week I had the privilege to attend TED Global 2011 and speak at TED University about the role of communication in igniting not just innovation but, more importantly, the impact resulting from the innovation on those who need it most.

All speakers (both at TED U and on the main stage) brought incredible passion and insight to their talks, and as a communicator it is so exciting to see several commonalities that reinforce why I am convinced that communications — compelling and transparent storytelling — can play a role in adopting world-changing innovation.

  • We are living in a world of arguably unprecedented change.  How far-fetched did the idea that the governments of Tunisia, Egypt and now (possibly) Libya would all change hands via revolutions driven by their own people sound a year ago? Let alone two, three or more years ago? Or that 140 characters would equate to the new “press conference” for celebrities and a smoking gun for scandalous politicians? Great change means complexity and questions, but also huge opportunity.  If, as a communicator, being able to help play a pivotal role in simplifying the complex, getting answers to hard questions and realizing the promise of what change can bring doesn’t excite you, then I don’t
    know what would. This leads me to my second takeaway.
  • Despite the enormous change environment, great stories are still struggling to get out. There is a great deal of innovation in the world, and while we know we are making progress, are we really using the innovation as powerfully as we can to solve the huge world problems? Is it getting to the people and places that require it? Is it that the ideas or innovations are not relevant? Is the right delivery system not in place? Or is it that the right story is not being told to the right audience? It is all of these, and the one I am most qualified to comment on is: Stories of innovation must be told.

How does telling a good story aid in the adoption of innovation? That’s something I hit on in my TED U talk: 1) Your story must have an impact — what will it do, and how will it change the world in a large and significant way or even a small and compelling
manner?  2) As always, know who your audience is and why they will care about your story. 3) Simplify and retell. I realize the
dangers of oversimplifying the complex. But not everyone is a rocket scientist (I am not), and yet many are interested in rockets.  So the way more people will learn about rockets is if those who are rocket scientists — share. 4) And lastly, the greatest minds in history have revisited their efforts — revised them and retold. The Mona Lisa has at least two previous versions under the one we know today after all.

One of my favorite talks at TED Global was given by Mark Pagel. He showed us that language is the most fundamental building block for innovation because it is the tool for us to truly collaborate. And when we collaborate, we spend less time reinventing the wheel and instead leap more quickly ahead because we are sharing ideas, discarding those that do not yield a good result and coalescing on a way forward.  We have massive problems in the world right now, and we have more promise of addressing these if we are working together. At the heart of this progress lies true collaboration, made possible by open and robust communications.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Sphinn
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Mixx
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Blogplay

One Comment

Sara Freeman on July 19, 2011

Melissa, your writing is as eloquent and articulate as I remember from the early 80′s but what impresses me most is your ability to focus on the upside during discouraging times. Well done!

← Back to WaggenerEdstrom.com