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Ruminations on Innovation from TED

Aleem Walji's picture

What is it about TED and intellectual polyglots? I’m attending my second TED at Oxford this week and I’m struck by how I can meet a physicist, poet, musician, and blogger all in one person. Imagine what this does for unleashing creativity, imagination, and yes, innovation. While it’s not enough to bring diverse and intelligent people together and just expect brilliant results, the intellectual diversity inherent in a group has much to do with the quality of intellectual outputs and results.

I’ve been reading Scott Page’s book, The Difference. He argues that intellectual diversity trumps individual IQ when tested in a number of settings. Should we be surprised? Doesn’t history teach us that many of our toughest challenges were solved when we learned to see “the problem” differently and therefore invited the expertise of others?

To me that’s the power of TED and what we can learn when bringing differently able, differently trained, and differently talented people together. What happens when you put a physicist, a poet, and an economist in the same room? Matt Ridley responded by saying, "ideas have sex". Nobody really knows but that’s the power of TED, unexpected encounters and unlimited possibility when trying to solve the world's hardest problems. 

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