A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of giving an Ignite talk at the second edition of IgniteWarsaw, held at the beautiful Zacheta Gallery. Aircon wasn’t cooperating all that well but other than that the evening went off like a rocket thanks to the efforts of Michal Paluchowski, Zuza Stanska, Mateusz Nowak and Leo Waldron.
The text below is more or less what I said – typing from memory is never 100% accurate…
I say g’day because that is where I come from. (Greetings from Australia / New Zealand slide) I’ve spent most of my life Down Under where the roads are usually good, bureaucracy you can live with and winter is not really an issue most of the time.
Now, a few years ago, through a stroke of fate, I found myself here. (Welcome to Poland slide) Let me just take a moment to explain the concept of six months of winter to the good people watching this on video. We’re not quite far enough North to have polar bears and not quite far enough East to be in Siberia, but coming from Australia, the difference is really not that great.
All was not bad, however. You see I knew the secret of this place. (Woman in cream dress slide) Yes, Poland has a secret, it’s not a very well kept secret but still… In case you don’t know, this place has the world’s most beautiful women.
So indeed, thanks to one such woman I decided to stay and was evidently not too unhappy about it since a month later I was ring shopping and four months later we were married. (Ralph jumping for joy slide) Wasting time at my age really is a sin.
So life, you could say, was looking blissful, I did however have one very serious problem. Here’s a graphic illustrating the problem and it’s not a graphic of global SARS or swine flu outbreaks but rather of places of where I knew people before I came here. (Map of the world slide with a big blank where Poland is) And I think you can spot the problem. Trying to get stuff done without knowing people can be difficult.
Luckily, about the same time, in its inestimable wisdom, TED decided to help me out, see? (TEDxWarsaw slide) Just for me, just so I could meet a lot of interesting people, they opened up the TEDx programme, which of course I enthusiastically embraced.
So, a couple of years later, we are now working on our third conference, (TEDxWarsaw stats slide) and indeed you could say that I have had the good fortune of meeting rather a lot of really interesting people. (Map of the World slide with big new dots) Here’s that map again, this time with a distribution of people I know now.
Here’s a photo of some of these people, this is about half our team (Team on stage slide) and in addition to being entirely awesome, these people have one other thing in common. They are half my age. Not that I’m particularly old, but they are particularly young. This is a fact whose significance will become apparent shortly – this talk is actually about the promise, and responsibility of Youth.
(Sneakers slide.) As an aside, my wife has recently bought me a pair of really cool Converse sneakers, in an effort to support my staying cool and relevant with all these awesome young people. I’ve never had Converse sneakers in my life so I thought I would share this joyful tidbit with you here today.
(Blog quote slide.) But there is a serious side to the story, of course. I had occasion to write this on my blog a few months ago. It was actually a post about a very positive event, involving lots of bright young people, but the fact remains the we have a very serious problem in this country and its very nature means we don’t talk about it very often.
(Poles don’t trust each-other slide.) This is a statistic which has been thrown about in the press and the issue with lack of trust is that it affects everything from personal lives to business and politics. I would go so far as to say that this is one of the most fundamental issues we have to deal with as a society right now because lack of trust is not very helpful in terms of getting the country to work as a dynamic, cohesive community (Silos slide) and it also helps our so-called politicians to put us into silos which are easy to manage and play off against each other.
(Maybe there is something slide.) So what to do? Well, if I may paraphrase the master, professore Umberto Eco: “By helping to create language, conversation creates a sense of identity and community.” We need to create spaces for conversation to take place.
(TEDxWarsaw 2011 slide.) I don’t pretend to have any answers but I think what we are doing with TEDx and what get-togethers such as this one are also helping accomplish is the development of a culture of conversation. And conversation is a really good way to help us get out of our silos. (Heated debate slide) Conversation with people we don’t normally meet, hearing about ideas we don’t normally consider. Heated debate, polite chats, and anything in between.
We try to emulate the ethos of TED at our little conference and I think it’s working. Sure, we get to hear amazing talks from incredible people, about ideas that blow my mind, but just as importantly we get to talk to a vast variety of people who are very different from each other. (Ideas worth spreading slide.) But they all have one thing in common, they are willing to give time to the other person, to hear what they have to say. Let’s think about the motto of TED for a moment – Ideas worth spreading. We understand the first part. Ideas – awesome things people have done, built or are considering. But the second part is just as important, and that can be accomplished by talking. (Ideas worth talking about slide.) In this city, in this country, what we need more than most other things right now, is a willingness to build conversations about things that matter with people we don’t normally meet.
(TEDxWarsaw slide) I’d like to invite all of you to join the conversation next March. It’s up to the young, and the young at heart, to get all this done. Because those without cool sneakers are too old and too set in their ways to do anything about it.