TEDActive attendees are a creative bunch — we come together once a year to celebrate ideas and get to know a larger community of thinkers from around the world. We are designers, teachers, organizers, business owners, students, and more.
Yesterday, Barbara Corcoran offered TEDActive attendees a chance to measure the “entrepreneurial strength” of this community.
Barbara gave a talk at TEDYou describing six personality traits she looks for when she invests in start ups, through her own personal investments and as a judge on Shark Tank. These traits included resilience (the ability to bounce back from failure), street smarts (ability to think quickly and react), big picture thinking, charisma, competitive drive, and people smarts.
Barbara has developed a short Entrepreneur IQ survey that she uses to draw attention to some of the strengths and weaknesses of potential entrepreneurs. The survey has 10 questions, designed to measure how an individual makes decisions, how they interact with their co-workers and potential clients, how they adjust to failure, and how they develop their ideas or find new opportunities. Scores on this survey can range from 0-10.
The survey was offered on Thursday morning, after TEDYou, and closed around 4pm. During this time, we were able to survey 15% of our total attendees and staff list.
Some of the questions were: Think about your best ideas. Where do they come from? How do you set goals for yourself? Think about your busiest times (when people said “you can never do all that”). How did you get it all done?
TEDActive Attendees did very well on this survey! We found that 56% of our attendees scored within the range that Barbara Corcoran denotes as “strong candidates.” The average score for our attendees was 7.5. [Strong Candidates are individuals who scored 8-10 on their survey]
TEDActive Attendees are risk takers — 92% of respondents said that they would make moves to pursue new opportunities, even when friends and family told them it was “risky.”
A similar 92% of our respondents agreed that new teammates and partners should be selected based on fit rather than result/qualifications or a pre-determined set of metrics for personality/resume.
The biggest differences in the community came from the questions addressing how people manage resources. Questions 7 and 8 discuss recovering from failures/setbacks and managing time during particularly busy projects. Question 9 tried to gauge how people identify and pursue new opportunities as they appear. The question on failure, in particular, received a wider range of answers than many of the other questions regarding resource allocation, team-building and decision making.
The quiz offered multiple choice answers to each of the ten questions and is written in Barbara’s voice. This adds to the fun! We share these results as part of the fun of this particular experiment.
When the article came out, she got her usual backlash from anti-gay voices claiming that she’s trying to “recruit.” But for the first time in her life, she was also getting hate mail from the gay community. Some readers told her she sounded “like one of those right-wing homophobes who says gay people should choose not to be gay.” After all, if being gay is a choice (and here Kohn makes a bold statement/Wham! reference, removing a layer to reveal a CHOOSE GAY t-shirt), then it’s a choice people can be told not to make. But Kohn explains that she sees the vehement opposition to the idea of choice in gayness as a direct reaction to a narrow-minded society — it’s an assurance that being gay is something that can’t be helped, and something you can’t infect your neighbor’s kids with. This version where we look for a gay gene, Lady Gaga writes a song, and we just want to be included, says Kohn, is a version that’s designed not to threaten the status quo. Unwilling to accept a reality where no one would choose to be gay because it means being a second class citizen, she says, “In a world where it is 1,000% morally, socially, culturally and politically acceptable to be gay, it should be 1,000% celebrated.”
Next, businesswoman Barbara Corcoran shares the six most important traits for successful entrepreneurship — the traits she sees over and over in the best contestants on Shark Tank. 1. Resilience: the ability to bounce back, not feel sorry for yourself, and have “the low IQ to say ‘hit me again,’” she jokes. 2. Street smarts: knowing how to think on your feet, make it all up, and do what you do. 3. Big picture thinking: not getting bogged down in detail, but being able to see your ultimate goals clearly from the get-go. 4. Charisma: one of the most underrated things in the entrepreneur’s bag of tricks, the simple ability to charm their pants off. 5. Competition: the fuel that gets you really fired up, the drive to defeat your rivals. And 6. People smarts: the ability to pick the right people at the right time to do the right task. These skills, says Corcoran can’t be taught or bought with a Harvard MBA — they’re just there. So take a look at the ‘dumb kid’ in the class, she insists, because they just might be the most successful at building a business.
Poet and educator Jamila Lyiscott takes the stage with a lyrical account of a simple educational tool she uses for the teachers she trains: the art of the cypher. It’s a piece of hip-hop culture with African roots; it’s newly written ideas over a beat. Over 80% of urban educators are not people of color, and come from outside of the communities they teach in, says Lyiscott, and when they learn the cypher they learn something important about the students they teach. When forced to improvise verbal and rhetorical dexterity, they show terror, fear, vulnerability, discomfort about being inauthentic: My lines suck. She asks, how many of your students do you label illiterate by societal standards, while you can’t do this? She reminds them, and us in the audience, that when they fail to incorporate the genius of diverse cultures, then everyone is robbed of the opportunity to be their best selves.
Classical pianist and pre-med student Shivam Shah gives a quick lesson in music appreciation — through understanding how the sounds of classical piano are produced, by a novice and by an expert. If we place two pianists at the same piano and ask them to play the same song, he says, there will be many ways to tell who’s the experienced pianist. First, you can observe where they’ve tensed and relaxed. When a piece is played with a constricted wrist, there is not much distinction between the melody and the rest of the notes. With an expertly free wrist, you can catch the melody. Over just a few notes it may not sound much different, but over a whole composition it can make a big difference. Next, you can observe how they hold themselves over the piano. You may see a pianist with arms waving or scrunched up over the piano and assume expertise, but sometimes it’s the one who looks the most bored at the piano who’s the true expert, because it’s with careful, controlled movements that you increase accuracy. Lastly, an expert and a novice will use the pedals very differently because it’s easy to overuse the pedals when you begin. Pros use the pedals sparingly, he says, and understand that pedal use is not binary but in degrees. Watch and listen carefully, says Shah, and you’ll notice the loose wrist, the tempered body and the flowing pedal of an expert — and maybe appreciate classical piano a bit better.
For startup maven Jacqui Chew, 10 years ago marked a scary moment: She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and felt confused and alone, with her family thousands of miles away. As she wrestled with her symptoms and with the stigma, she realized there were three things her friends and acquaintances were getting very wrong about bipolar. 1. Everyone believed it to be uncommon, but in fact there are 30 million people worldwide, six million of them in the US, with bipolar, and chances are most people know someone affected by it. 2. It does not bestow some mythical powers of creativity. Though Chew is a writer, she assures us that she is no Pulitzer Prize winner, as though transformed by her bipolar. 3. It’s treatable, but it isn’t curable. When medicine, therapy and self-care improved her condition after initial diagnosis, Chew felt much better — so much better that she believed herself cured and decided to stop, resulting in 18 months of deep depression. She now knows that treatment must be a way of life for her, and over time she’s developed a few more ways to take care of herself, including one that might improve anyone’s mental health: She refuses to work with assholes. Having shared her own journey with bipolar disorder, she asks us all to get out, learn more, and educate away the stigma.
And now for something completely different: Onyx Ashanti treats the room to a beatjazz performance using high-tech instruments of his own creation that envelop and disguise him. It’s a full sensory experience of lights, sounds both totally alien and mundanely familiar, and mesmerizing movement.
Material scientist Jun Kamei has a serious problem he wants to share: When he tries to fry an egg in his stainless steel pan, it sticks to the bottom. Though a Teflon nonstick coating can change the destiny of his egg, the coating gets scratched off easily and his harmful to his health. Here’s what works event better: A cast iron pan. The carbon-rich surface helps retain the oil in the pan, so the food doesn’t burn on, and unlike Teflon, this solution has existed for 300 years. Kamei explains that we often see traditional things as beautiful but not useful — but try telling that to the scientists who recently created an origami-inspired solar panel that folds and unfolds in seconds. “Traditional crafts are full of wisdom,” he says, “and they can inspire us to think of new technology that will shape our future.”
In a predictably delightful trick, cyberillusionist Marco Tempest makes some magic with that most brain-boggling of mathematical toys, the Rubik’s cube. “A good puzzle is a mystery,” he says, “and we love mysteries.” Onstage the Rubik’s cubes (and he’s brought plenty) seem to instantly solve themselves, copy one another, and share a big, friendly smile. Though some might find the cube to be too frustrating, Tempest says, “Puzzles give us the opportunity to solve a seemingly impossibly challenge. It’s a mystery that promises a solution. We just have to find it.”
Finally, writer Joshua Prager shares that he has an important birthday coming up: 44. It’s important because he read a passage in Norman Mailer’s Armies of the Night that describes that year as the feeling of having finally arrived. Though Prager knew it wasn’t about him, he identified with it. And then he found other passages by other writers about turning specific ages, and indeed he identified with those too, because as he says, “There are patterns to life, and they are shared.” He thought to himself that there must be somewhere passages written about every age, and slowly he began to collect them, pouring through countless texts to create his list and assemble them into a life. “Books tell us who’ve been, who we are, and who we will be too,” says Prager, as he shares some of the beautiful, poignant passages from his findings. “A list would last,” he says, “would clasp what was fleeting, be a glimpse into the future whether we made it there or not.” As his list coalesced, so did the life he had been living. His list of 100 years is done, but he is not done because he has his life to live and many more years to pass into.
TEDYou, a longstanding TEDActive tradition, is taking place once again in beautiful Whistler! TEDYou is a curated session of talks delivered by attendees who applied with a proposal featuring their work, talents and interests. TEDYou will take place between Sessions 8 and 9, on Thursday, March 19, from 8:15am to 9:45am. For those of you watching on TED Live, TEDYou will not be live webcasted, but several of the talks may later appear on TED.com. If you will be onsite in Whistler, come support your fellow attendees who will be speaking about a variety of different topics, ranging from materials science to the choices we make about our identities.
This year, nine awesome speakers and performers will take the TEDYou stage:
Barbara Corcoran is the Founder of the Corcoran Group, Barbara Corcoran Inc. and Barbara Corcoran Venture Partners. Barbara is a businesswoman, investor and speaker on topics ranging from real estate to investment to surviving in the business world. She is also one of the “Sharks” on the reality show “Shark Tank.”
Sally Kohn is considered one of the leading progressive voices in the United States. She currently contributes to CNN and the Daily Beast. She has also contributed to Fox News, MSNBC, Washington Post, New York Times, Reuters, More Magazine, Salon, Politico, Time and many others. Sally was listed as one of the Top Nine Rising Stars in cable news by Mediaite and the 35th Most Influential Gay Person in the Media by The Advocate.
Shivam Shah is a classical pianist and a junior neuropsychology student at the University of Cincinnati, on track to be a medical student once he graduates. He has been playing the classical piano for 13 years and jazz piano for seven years. He is currently writing a piano concerto and has recorded some of his work with indie bands in Cincinnati. Despite playing the piano for years, Shivam is still working to understand the intangibles of music.
Jun Kamei is a biomimicry researcher who uses his research to develop new materials. He is both passionate about the patterns and structures within nature and modern engineering processes as well as appreciative of traditional methods and materials from rural Japan. Jun was a member of the TEDxTohoku organizing team.
Onyx Ashanti is a Beatjazz sonic architect. He is a musician, geek, open-source advocate, maker and collaborator. Beatjazz is a multidimensional performance piece that Onyx invented using his own musical tools. It is as much a musical experience as it is a complex visualization of sound. Beatjazz continues to evolve over time as Onyx adds new elements and technology to the ways that he plays with sound and visualizations.
Jacqui Chew is the founder and CEO of iFusion Marketing. Jacqui is focused on helping startups navigate and gain skills they need to survive in competitive markets. She is also the editor in chief of BeyondMVP, a publication that offers news, analysis and lifestyle features on startups and tech in the American South. Jacqui is a co-organizer of TEDxPeachTree.
Marco Tempest is a cyber illusionist and current Director’s Fellow at the MIT media lab. His work combines magic and technology to produce mind-blowing performances. His career began as a stage performer, but his work with different kinds of technology and his access to wider networks over the internet allowed him to expand his repertoire and audience. Tempest supports the open source community, works with artists and studies different practical uses of illusion technology.
Jamila Lyiscott is a poet and educator. She is currently an adjunct professor at Long Island University and Columbia University’s Teachers College, where she is also an advanced doctoral candidate. Her focus is on the education of the African Diaspora. Jamila has been a spoken word artist since she was 15, using her performance work to engage with youth, educators and activists across New York City.
Joshua Prager is a journalist and author. He writes for Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, and New York Times andhe explores storytelling through longer works as well. His book The Echoing Green was named Best Book of the Year by the Washington Post. His second book, Half-Life, was about his recovery process after a bus crash that broke his neck. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in 2011 and a Fulbright Distinguished Chair at Hebrew University in 2012.