Imagine you want to involve thousands of people from around the world in thoughtful conversation.  How would you do it?  TEDWomen, a TED conference focused on how women and girls are reshaping the future, took on this challenge Dec 7 & 8th and the conversation continues (blog linksTEDWomen tweetsTEDBAW tweets - my local venue). From the TEDWomen webpage:

A truly global event, TEDWomen will center in Washington, D.C., and connect live to self-organized events across the globe as part of the TEDx program. These gatherings will connect thousands of people from every continent, creating a global dialogue over the course of the two-day event, which will continue online as the talks get released to the world.

The home site in Washington, D.C. had a fantastic program, but the self-organized events are are even more interest to me. TED, via TEDx, their licensing approach, gives us all permission to participate, and we did.  I joined with over 100 women (and some men) attending TEDxBayArea TEDWomen on SAP’s campus in Palo Alto, CA.  Tatyana Kanzaveli, TEDXBayArea’s organizer, drew on her local network to build an amazing and diverse program along with opportunities to watch talks from the D.C. venue. We weren’t outsiders.  We were, and continue to be, full-on participants. TEDWomen provided the trigger, but the insights were ours.  This was a beautiful example of being global and local at the same time. Many of the talks focused on how to participate in local, global, personal, and professional innovation.  Two especially have stuck with me in terms of how to share ideas and have impact:

John Hagel’s talk describes how our macro environment is changing such that collaboration and cooperation are rewarded with faster learning and increases in performance (versus a more competitive business model).  While I’m intensely competitive, I’ll admit it’s more fun in a group.  I'm ready if the world is truly shifting to this mode. Nilofer Merchant’s talk inspires at a more personal level.  She calls for each of us use critical experiences in our lives to transition from who we’ve been, to who we aspire to be -- don’t let the past define you, instead, let your aspirations tug you into the future.  These thoughts have stuck with me over the past weeks and I have taken action where before I might not. Both talks were examples from a world where sharing and engaging in great ideas has value.  Thousands of people were together during TEDWomen, even if most were physically apart. So, how do you engage thousands of people around question? Give them a trigger and then get out of their way. TED, TEDx, TEDWomen, The X-Prize Foundationand scores of other challenges and programs are providing the triggers. It’s up to us to engage.