Thursday, 8 December 2011

TEDCEMBER: How many lives can you live?

Today's TED talk by Sarah Kay turned out to be a break from my preferred theme of psychology. In it Sarah describes her childhood desire to live multiple lives (a princess, a ballerina and an astronaut), her disappointment when she realised we only get to live one life and her solution of immersing herself in other peoples stories. The talk (and poetry) were utterly absorbing, and reminded me of three things:

1. Scott Adams (Dilbert cartoonist) suggests the secret of his success not that he's in the top 1% of cartoonists, or top 1% of public speakers, but that because he's in the top 1% of public speakers who are also cartoonists. He's essentially living two lives. I believe USPs are the same thing. To attempt to differentiate ourselves or our organisations on a single USP is unrealistic for 99% of us at least. Easier to find a combination of things that make us unique and attractive even if it narrows our target market.

2. When designing a new product, IDEO form a product team of people with different skills and backgrounds with a flat structure and encouragement for wild ideas (there's a video of their process here). I would like to see backlogs and software prototypes designed this way. The more points of view initially on offer the better. The reality is often the opposite, with a small number of stakeholders, negotiating requirements via a business proxy, and little direct input from end users, development, ops etc.

3. I really should catch up with the guys at Ditto. They run a similar event to TED called campfire. The stories are always great, but what I most enjoy is meeting other attendees. Coming from an IT background it's incredibly refreshing to be amongst actors and musicians, people with significantly different lives and stories.

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