Thank you to those who sent good wishes. I feel like my 6 minute TED University lecture went pretty well. It was extremely intimidating though. The speakers before me included a report on scientists in the Antarctic drilling thousands of years into the past to get ice cores that help us understand climate change, an artist who made an installation combining church bells and civilian deaths in Iraq, and a school in East LA that has a uniquely effective programme to teach at risk kids. I was just going to talk about how an insurance company sells policies online. As the speakers before me told stories more and more fabulous, I got more and more nervous.
Actually, it is a bit more than that. Tapiola uses social media to design and sell insurance to students who have just left home called UNDO. I also talked about a speed dating-type event organized by Texas Health Resources to help patients find a doctor they are comfortable with, and a few other stories of big companies doing interesting things with social software.
The lecture seemed well-received and several people sought me out to talk about some of the ideas, so I am glad I did it, and very happy that TED gave me the opportunity to try something new.
TED is all about ideas, and many of them were flying around today. From the personally inspiring (comic book superheros based on Muslim legends and the work of the Half The Sky Foundation) to those with more IT impact. I found two talks particularly intriguing.
Steven Berlin Johnson spoke about where good ideas come from. It seems to have a lot to do with coffee, but fundamentally, they don’t happen alone. His research shows that ideas don’t zap into someone’s head in a flash of inspiration or insight; they build up over time, and develop fastest when several people can work on them. Sounds like a good model for collaboration
Ron Dembo had a great discussion of ways to deal with deterministic or stochastic risk. Risk is deterministic when you know that something bad will happen. The appropriate reaction is to execute steps to counteract the risks. Stochastic risk is essentially random, with no certainty about when or if the negative event will occur. The appropriate reaction to stochastic risk is hedging; in other words, take some precautions to reduce the negative effects if the event should occur.
When considering risk in adopting social software, I find that many organizations operate as if it is a deterministic risk (i.e. inevitable that a negative event will occur) and put steps in place to restrict, control or even ban social networking activities, which in itself introduces its own deterministic risk: that of missing out on the insights and innovation that social networking can bring. Social networking does involve risk, but it is actually more of a stochastic risk; we don’t know when or how severely a negative incident will occur. In this case, a hedging response makes sense. make sure that you can react quickly to recover from an incident, for example. Or institute extra controls in particularly sensitive areas of the business.
Just a few of the things the TED talks today got me thinking about.