My Reflections on TEDActive – or How it’s Good to be Wrong – By Dan Cawley

May 23, 2011

Continuing our recent series of better-late-than-never reflections on conferences held in March, Dan Cawley, Vice President, Impact and Evaluation at HopeLab, shares his thoughts and feelings looking back at TEDActive 2011.

The theme of this year’s TED was the “Rediscovery of Wonder” which to me meant to see things a bit differently. It made me want to get a bit out of my own head and see things as a child does  – anew, enormous and incredible in all of its beauty. This, truly, is what I consider wonder to be.

It was also a wonder to bask in the glow of watching our own Liz Song present her amazing photographic eye in a gorgeous slideshow at TEDActive.

There were a lot of wonders presented at TED. When I thought about what struck me most that I wanted to share with our staff, I reflected on what we have been learning together over the past few years: learning organization principles; core ground rules; Myers-Briggs and Enneagram type tools and; Conscious Leadership principles. I also thought about our most recent retreat and remembered stories that we shared with each other. In one exercise someone started a story and passed it on to the next person to continue.  The stories were lots of fun and we laughed a lot. But all the stories went in many different and unexpected directions.

Why?  Because we all see things differently.  And we appreciate each other for just that reason.

One of the first speakers I heard at TEDActive suggested that as workers and individuals, we could see things in a different way. I found his thinking quite reflective of how we think at HopeLab. He suggested that most businesses create jobs to tell people what they can’t do rather than what they can – we took creativity away from individuals and gave them rules to follow. “Oh, You can’t do that”, “You’re going too fast” or “Everyone must play by the rules” – most of these can be fine common phrases to be used at the right time – except when they don’t work. The problem we sometimes face is that these phrases don’t allow for the complexity of life.

I want to share with you a talk by Kathryn Schultz that struck me just as deeply.  Many of those that work with me have heard me say that “I may be wrong about this but…” and then I offer my thoughts. I truly believe that I may be wrong when I say it.  But sometimes I don’t. I fear that I don’t recognize the simple truth that I can be wrong enough in my life. Or better yet, that I just don’t have to be right all of the time. I learn so much more that way.

I’ll let Kathryn Schulz tell you why that may be the case….