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TED: Changing the World, One 15-Minute Presentation at a Time

Rob Enderle | Sept. 29, 2014
If you get a chance to attend a TED event, do it, columnist Rob Enderle writes. The talks are specifically designed to be short, slide-free and inspiring. Even sponsored events are free of sales pitches and data-driven presentations.

Leadership in the Digital Era Means Giving Up Control
The incomparable Charlene Li is one of the most amazing people I know. She touched on a number of things, but what really stuck with me was that influence is no longer connected to titles but, rather, to how many people a person influences. Often in today's companies, it's often unrecognized rank-and-file employees who drive success and performance, not named executives. It fascinates me to see otherwise-smart executives lay these people off, knowing nothing about who they are, only to face them again when they work for more powerful competitors. Li also says sharing and transparency define winning companies in the digital age. This also resonated with me; an excessive focus on privacy doesn't work during this period when everyone's connected.

Questioning Tone in Analytics
I've said that analytics isn't working in many firms because data feeds are biased and critical information is left out. IBM researcher Kareem Yusuf points out that we aren't capturing the tone of communications well, either, and often misinterpret the data as a result. The same set of words can mean very different things in different tones, and we don't have a good mechanism to address this. That's why neural computers will become more important going forward; it's believed they'll be able to not only report what someone said or wrote, but when they actually meant, which could be very different.

Tomorrow's Cinema Should Turn Back Time
This had little to do with IT but is touched my heart. Brad Bird -- a movie industry legend, director, screenwriter, animator, producer and actor for the Pixar division of Disney -- shared some fascinating Steve Jobs stories. He also discussed how going to the movies used to be an amazing event: The theaters focused on one film, waiting in line was like waiting to buy a new iPhone, and everything was orchestrated to make the experience special. This gave way to the Cineplex: Big boxes with little theaters that shuffle customers in and out as quickly as possible. Much of the magic of movies was lost -- which is why, he argues, the film industry is ailing. You get a better experience watching movies at home. If we want to fix the movie industry, Bird says, we need to turn back the clock and make going to the theaters amazing again.

Cognitive Cooking: Recipes for the Food in Your Kitchen
IBM researcher Florian Pinel spoke about what would happen if everyone could have Watson design a dinner menu. Use Watson to analyze your dietary needs, as well as the food you have on hand, and it could suggest the healthiest meals at the lowest cost (as you'd waste almost nothing). Getting Watson to understand what your body needs, as well as data-entering all the food you just bought at the store, could be painful -- unless you tied Watson to an online shopping service and/or had a connected pantry and refrigerator that automatically inventoried the food on hand. Or imagine you had a 3-D food printer, or a stove that would cook the meal for you. This is in our future, but it'll take a while to get there.


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