Unconventional Wisdom - TEDxManchester 2019

Feb 7 2019

On Sunday some of the team (who were up bright and early) were down at The Bridgewater Hall for TEDxManchester 2019. In true TED style, the day promised to broaden our horizons and open our eyes, ears and minds to new ways of thinking and doing. A day to gain some perspective before the turn of a new week, as Herb Kim, Founder of TEDxManchester put it, “Today is about zooming out.”

Credit: TEDxManchester Flickr

As the some 2,000 attendees settled in for the day, the hush that came across the crowd was like the calm before the storm. We were ready to have our minds blown, and the day did not disappoint.

With fourteen sessions to cover, there isn’t time to get into the details of each one. Instead we want to talk about the overall theme of the day, and how each of these stories come together to show us the true power of unconventional thinking.

Silence speaks volumes. Moon Ribas (@moonribas), Cyborg Activist and Artist, has seismic sensors planted in her feet that allow her to sense when an earthquake or moonquake takes place. She stood on the famous red dot quietly until she felt the tremors, and they signalled it was time to start. Moon uses dance and music to share her experience of the quakes with others, and her session focused on using technology to design new senses so we can develop our knowledge of the world.

Credit: Thomas Jackson @ TyneSight Photographic Services
Credit: Thomas Jackson @ TyneSight Photographic Services

Continuing the theme of progressive technology, Mostafa Nabawy (@mra_nabawy) of the University of Manchester, introduced us to Kim, the spider. The Microsystems Research Team Leader has been developing the micro-robot in a bid to better understand insect behaviour, and how it could benefit us in certain fields. The jumping robot spider certainly grabbed everyone’s attention!

Micro-robot insects may be our future allies, but Ged King (@Skullfades), Barber and Founder of The Skullfade Foundation, is acting on how we can make a difference right now. From Manchester himself, Ged offers free haircuts to the homeless with the vision of giving the less advantaged a chance to get back on their feet again. The Skullfades Foundation has evolved to bring food and hygiene products to those living on the streets, whilst also helping them overcome addictions, and there’s now a barber training programme, giving them a chance at employability. He’s not just creating opportunities, he’s giving them everything they need to get there too. Needless to say, Ged’s talk was met with a standing ovation.

Credit: TEDxManchester Flickr

The power of human connection works anywhere in the world, regardless of language barriers.

Ged King, Barber, Founder of Skullfades and Skullfades Foundation

From overcoming disadvantage, to conquering blood-curdling fear with David Nihill (@FunnyBizzSF). His session focused on our ability to transform our relationship with fear for the better, as David explained how he had overcome his fear (to put it lightly) of public speaking to help a friend. The positive outcomes that lie on the other side of that fear hurdle are what makes it possible to overcome those feelings.

‘Wrongitude’, as Rory Sutherland (@rorysutherland) put it. We must identify what’s wrong with a situation, a model, etc. and then leverage these disadvantages to create something that’s totally the opposite and more successful. Always someone to challenge your thought processes, Rory’s talk was eye opening.

Credit: Thomas Jackson @ TyneSight Photographic Services
Credit: Thomas Jackson @ TyneSight Photographic Services

Creative people are heavily policed by logical people. The same does not apply the other way around.

Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of Ogilvy

After some lunch (which, no doubt most people spent on social media) was Chris Bailey (@Chris_Bailey). Following his personal digital detox, Chris worked on the concept of increased productivity as a result of reduced screen time. We need to make the time to let our minds have the freedom to explore.

Katherine Ormerod (@katherine_orm) has, cleverly, made a social success based on the fact that social media is ruining our lives. She outlines how we need to distinguish our ‘online’ lives and our ‘real’ ones. It was a session that really got us thinking, as it seems the two are edging ever closer to becoming one.

Speaking of living long, healthy lives, Anthony Warner (@One_Angry_Chef), Food Science Evangelist took to the stage. Tackling nutrition and food science from a new angle, Anthony explained his beliefs on the true causes of the issues surrounding nutrition - inequality and poverty.

Still on the note of happiness and health, astronomical photographer, Jon Carmichael (@photographerjon) spoke to us about the captivating effect of images. He explained how photography allows people to feel a sense of connection to nature, something that feels as though it’s slipping away from us quickly.

What do you picture if someone tells you you’ve got to sit through a chemistry talk? If it’s a drab lecture theatre with slide after boring slide, flip that image on its head and you’ve got Andrew Syzdlo’s performance. He focuses on opening chemistry up to everyone by making the subject captivating, rather than textbook dull.

Credit: Thomas Jackson @ TyneSight Photographic Services

Alex Partridge, Founder of global brand UNILAD, had everyone back in their seats quickly after a quick break to stretch our legs and get a coffee. He addressed the dual nature of social media, both its positive power and its ability to cause damage, it was an important reminder that reality doesn’t always match up to perceptions.

Owning the red dot, Sarah Carlick (@SarahCarlick) put a spotlight on how we can transform the use of technology to benefit children and keep them safe. Social media has reached astronomical heights, but it is largely seen as a recreational area of tech. Sarah highlighted how we can use these technologies to make a real difference to children’s lives.

We need to put social care tech on the map.

Sarah Carlick, Founder of MeSafe

Another speaker who works to improve the accessibility of science is Emer Maguire (@EmerMOfficial), who’s chosen medium is song. With her ‘scientifically accurate musical comedy’ it’s very clear to see why she’s an award-winning communicator. Not many people could educate you on the science of love through a song, but Emer’s approach is both educating and humorous, without being gimmicky.

To round the day off, Maisie Williams (@Maisie_Williams) took to the stage to talk to us about her experience of the arts world. As she’s found herself, it’s very much ‘who you know’, and so in response the catch twenty-two situation many find themselves in, she’s set up her own platform. Daisie is designed to put a stamp on how creatives work together. Again, a perfect example of not just talking about a problem, but creating something to set about redefining that negativity.

The key to success in the creative industry is collaboration.

Maisie Williams, Actress, Entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Daisie

Credit: TEDxManchester Flickr

It takes courage to do something different, and to be in that space in the first place you’ve got to take a step back and assess the situation. As Herb said, the day was about zooming out, seeing the bigger picture and then finding innovative, new ways to overcome obstacles. Don’t be afraid to question, unconventional wisdom is invaluable.

Sophie, Studio & Brand Manager