This past week, I had the great fortune to attend the TED conference.
TED, for those that don't know it, is a great annual gathering of thought, business, and political leaders, of techno-optimists, and of passionate and decidedly idealist change agents from around the globe.
Past speakers at the conference have included Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Malcolm Gladwell, Sergey Brin, educator Salman Khan, and many Nobel Prize winners.
The slogan of TED is “ideas worth spreading,” and they are probably doing a better job of it than any other organization in the world.
Over 1,000 “TED Talks” are available for free downloading on the organization's website. Amazingly given their often highly intellectual content, the talks have been translated into more than 81 languages and viewed in aggregate more than 700,000,000 times.
At this year's conference, the presenters included Peter Diamandis, Founder of the X Prize, Jim Stengel, former Head of Global Marketing for Procter & Gamble, T. Boone Pickens, and Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn.
For my TED week, the story that resonated most was shared by David Kelley, founder of the legendary Palo Alto design firm IDEO, whose many design feats include the first mouse, the first PDA, and Steelcase’s Leap Chairs.
My favorite fun fact about IDEO – not only is it consistently ranked by BusinessWeek as one of the world’s 25 most innovative firms but most years it does consulting work for the other 24 companies in the top 25!
David’s talk was about creative confidence - how within all of us lies breakthrough, innovative thinking and doing that just sometimes needs a little push and inspiration to become real.
He shared the story of Doug Dietz, a General Electric engineer whose life work had been the design and manufacture of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines.
David told of how Doug had been visiting a hospital when he saw a little girl crying, waiting to have her MRI done.
He asked the attending nurse if this was typical, and was shocked to hear that more than 80% of all children getting MRI scans needed to be sedated.
He went back to GE dismayed - thinking of all of the children that were having such harrowing experiences, and how the machines he had helped design and build had had a hand in causing.
Doug, under David’s guidance, reframed the problem as a creative challenge, and re-imagined the MRI experience for children - believe it or not - as a pirate adventure.
Well, how about painting the entire exam room in tropical collages, and giving the children adventurer costumes instead of pale hospital gowns?
And, in the tour de grace, the formerly foreboding MRI machine itself reimagined as a pirate ship - with the children guided to stay quiet and still as they “went aboard,” so as not to wake the pirates!
The result - sedation rates dropped from 80 to less than 10 percent, along with massive time and money savings of removing the need for anesthesia.
This is TED - entrepreneurial, creative thinking and acting to make the world a healthier, wealthier…
…and more thoughtfully designed and kindfully entertained place - one child at a time.