Friday, September 7, 2012

Everything I needed, I learned in New Bedford

Great Ideas from TEDxNew Bedford:

While the TED conferences usually take place in trendy locations like Palo Alto and Long Beach (CA) or Portland (OR), participants in this week’s 
TEDxNewBedford conference ( gathered in the resurgent town of New Bedford, unofficial capital of Massachusetts’ burgeoning SouthCoast region.

Once the city that boasted the highest per capita income in the world, New Bedford fell on hard times in the decades that followed the replacement of whale oil with petroleum as the principal form of illumination. Recently, under the leadership of its new Mayor (Jon Mitchell), New Bedford is increasingly seen as a place where "ideas come to life," as Mayor Mitchell said at a reception that capped a full-day of ideas.

This week’s event was organized by SouthCoast native and business innovator Chris Rezendes, whose consulting company INEX Advisors ( is sets a good example of helping tech companies to conduct biz in a more thoughtful, community-minded way.

I was inspired to participate in #tedxnewbedford, because my own business (Valuecasters) tries to follow Chris's example by "doing well by doing good," connecting people together for mutual advantage, and encouraging clients to give generously (because generosity is not only the right thing to do... it's smart business)!

As you’ll see in its Agenda, this day-long event featured a fascinating smorgasbord of thought leaders who shared their thoughts, innovation best practices examples and a consistent theme of rallying attendees to think and differently, by running businesses that don’t focus solely on the bottom line.

TEDxNewBedford Attendees connecting together beneath
a massive whale skeleton (at the New Bedford Whaling Museum)

Attending the conference myself, I learned a lot and walked out of the event (onto the picturesque cobblestone streets of historic New Bedford), feeling energetic, inspired, and re-invigorated.

While my “lessons learned” are too numerous to include in this post, here’s a sample of some of the excellent quotes, factoids and thought-challenging observations that struck me:

Chris Rezendes:      
Chris kicked off the event by saying something to the effect of “Modern business requires us to consider and master complexity, value & time,” and quoted these sage words Guru Neem Karillia Boba made circa 1600:
“To know and yet not to do is in fact not to know.”

Mark Lovett asked “Will ‘happiness’ ultimately destroy our planet?” and introduce me to the concept of ‘collaborative consumption” in which technology and peer communities are favorably improving how we share, barter, lend, rent and swap ‘stuff’ with those we know.
Let your neighbor use that weed-whacker gathering dust in your garage

Brenda Berube of the Fall River Public School system pointed out that today’s public school education still share three principal challenges that were present for immigrant students 100+ yrs ago: Safety, technical skills, citizenship

Dr. Jack Shoykhet, an immigrant from Ukraine, impressed us with his real world examples of how government can achieve more with less through ‘relentless innovation.’ His work: Synching record systems of the Department of Defense with that of the Veterans Administration, using IT to slash the cost of tracking prisoners, unifying the massive Intelligence systems of various Fed agencies, and implementing telemedicine and blended learning to make healthcare and higher ed more efficient: very, very impressive. I joked with him at a break that Gov. Romney & Pres. Obama would both do well to follow his example.

Filmmaker Kevin Kertscher educated us on a broader definition of “diversity” and shared how organizations leverage and benefit from collective and performance diversity in business and government

Speakding on “Stewardship Through Participation:  Marine Ecosystems & Global Exploration,” Durval Tavares surprised me with the estimate that 95% of the worlds oceans are unexplored! He then shared stories on how SouthCoast companies are looking below the waves to see what lies in the oceans’ depths and discover sustainable opportunities might surface.

Local Physician Derek Hausladen, MD noted that Med School students aren’t taught anything about the relationship between patient care and time management, nor about economics, business. Yet with people now living 50% longer than our ancestors (not because of medicine but because of cleaner sewage), we need to examine our perceptions of the value of time in medicine and also to seek realistic and fair expecations of time in the doctor>><

Julie Fraser of Iyno Advisors, asked the audience to meditate on the thought “What if we were able to apply our work disciplines into our personal lives?” and then shared methods to repurpose processes and techniques she learned in the manufacturing industry to let people “have the life you want.” Her out of the box approach suggested how we could adapt the 6 Sigma approach to ‘continuous improvement’ in business toward persuing our personal passions improving our lives. As she reminded us: “All manufactured goods started with someone being dissatisfied who was moved to make things better.” Fascinating idea.

While I wish I could go on to summarize all the other ideas that other speakers shared at the conference… time doesn’t permit that today.

Suffice it to say… the first TEDxNewBedford (in September 2012) was a phenomenal event and the universal consensus of the attendees:  time well spent, and something they’ll want to do again.

Thanks to Chris and Team for their inspiration and hard work in making it a reality!