TEDActive 2012: Susan Cain, Quixotic

Though I was a bit distracted by the Hackathon, I still managed to listen to and watch several talks from TED while out in Palm Springs.  Here are a couple of brief notes and opinions, and links to the talks themselves from TED.com when available.

Susan Cain: This was one of those talks that everyone loved and 90% of the crowd started immediately proclaiming themselves an introvert.  And while I didn’t love all her examples, I agree with her calls to action.

I never could quite grasp what Cain meant by introversion, as even psychologists have a fairly hazy definition.  I, for example, am very outgoing and gregarious, but am considered by most to be a relatively private person – I prefer being alone to being with people, especially when upset, and get edgy when I’m forced to be around people all the time.  I think she got a bit bogged down in searching for what it meant, and that’s why so many people suddenly started calling themselves introverted after this talk: it isn’t that we exist along a spectrum, but rather that they are orthogonal needs that people have varying amounts of (you could have a high need for socialization and a high need for private time, for example).

Taken that way, it nicely sets the stage for Cain’s action points, which were roughly a) stop forcing people to work in groups, b) spend some unplugged time, and c) make sure you don’t forget to share.  I think C is actually a part of A, in that the surest way to shut someone up is put them in a group.  As someone who hates enforced groupwork and is most productive when working alone, I’m certainly happy to take to the field in defense of private time, especially in the workplace.

Quick side note: I love how TEDsters simultaneously loved this talk and anything that involves crowdsourcing.  They aren’t actually incompatible (crowdsourcing could be seen as many introverts simultaneously expressing their opinion, and therefore an improvement on actual groupthink) but if the wisdom of the individual can potentially be high, why force them to water it down?  Cain named a bunch of shining star introverts who had done great things for the world, and by and large, they did it as independent thinkers and actors.

Quixotic: This should have been called “a crash course in making dance relevant”.  The wonderful thing about the move from live theater to movies is that it used technology to allow new ways of telling stories: multiple viewpoints, cinematography and light, non-linearity.  Very few people in the United States want to go watch dance, because it feels dated and/or inaccessible.  But when technology allows for visual aids that can draw people in.  Having someone dance like a bird while showing the movements of the bird itself helps us be amazed at the story they are telling through movement.  Dancers, take note – I would go to watch this.

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