On blogs, what people are thinking, and TED

I’ve been reading blogs lately. Blogs on leadership. Blogs on spirituality, making presentations and on the Heisman Trophy. And blogs on blogging. It’s fascinating to learn what people are thinking about and why.

All this blog-reading has made me realize that I live in a pretty narrow world, one I’ve carefully constructed to preserve my way of thinking.

And then, a couple of weeks ago, on some blog, somewhere, I ran into TED.com, a fascinating website whose tagline is “ideas worth spreading.” TED stands for technology, entertainment and design and was started, in 1984, as a conference to bring together “the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes.)” That’s TED on TED.

In April 2007, TED began putting videos of these talks on its website under a Creative Commons License, making them available for public use—with only a few restrictions.

You gotta visit TED. It’s amazing. Where else could you see vice president Al Gore, primatologist Jane Goodall, orchestra conductor Benjamin Zander, and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin?

Why care about what these people think? Because the challenges we face today–as individuals, businesses, countries and the world–require a new kind of thinking, thinking that is more broad and expansive than what we’ve applied in the past. And one of the best ways to do that is to expand the size of our “mental box” to include ideas that may be totally foreign to the way we think today.

Here’s an example. Without doubt, Paul Simon is an incredible musician. And like many good musicians, his career has had peaks and valleys. Yet it extends across decades because he constantly looked to outside influences to shape his tunes.

In 1985, for example, Simon first heard the African group Ladysmith Black Mambazo while on a humanitarian trip there. This group’s musical style of unique native rhythms and almost chant-like lyrics stuck in his head. The result: the 1986 hit “You Can Call Me Al.”

Perhaps the video that most caught my brain by the edges and stretched my thinking was this presentation by artist and computer wizard Jonathan Harris. Talk about driving home the point that we’re all connected more closely than we may believe!

So, I say, “Go TED!” What a powerful, selfless concept: making the thinking of some of the world’s brightest minds accessible to those of us who wouldn’t normally be exposed to it. Who knows, maybe we’ll learn something!

Your turn: What stretches your thinking? Tell us in the comments section!

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