sustainable business

TEDx Presidio: ideas that stuck

Sandra Stewart | September 13, 2012

Last weekend’s TEDx event at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts, themed “Reinventing Capitalism,” was quite the grab bag, from an opening talk by the always compelling Van Jones to an onstage cooking and commercial tomato­­–tossing demo by Bi-Rite market founder Sam Mogannam to a surprise appearance by the Back to the Roots grow-your-own-mushrooms-in-a-box guys.

Jones, co-founder and president of Rebuild the Dream, on the sharing economy: if it’s going to be a meaningful solution for the many, “We have to be sure we don’t just create a hip lifestyle choice.” And: “Sharing is tricky. If you have to share, sharing sucks. If you get to share, sharing’s cool.”

Brian Solis, principal, Altimeter Group: “We live in an economy where people are brands and brands are trying to become people.” He didn’t judge it, but can this be good? He also said, “There’s too much talking and not enough listening and learning.” We say: yes.

Peter Graf, chief sustainability officer at enterprise giant SAP, on motivating people to behave more sustainably: “It comes down to fear, greed and aspiration. You have to get to their emotions.” (We agree.) The tagline on SAP’s internal carpool campaign: “Make new friends. Know the gossip.”

Michael Meyer, partner in the design firm Essential: “The key to great products is not creativity. The key to great products is empathy.” We love him. He talked about product design without once calling people “consumers.”

Which brings us to our last point: In a conference devoted to reinventing capitalism, it was dispiriting to hear so many people use the word “consumer” used as a synonym for person/citizen/your identity here. We’ve ranted about this before—it encourages people to see themselves in a narrow role, with narrow possibilities for action. Now we’re itching to make it a full-blown campaign. Anyone in?


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