by Sally Pike

TedX conference in July

PM Conferences

Post TedX conference report
Post TedX conference report

Project managers are constantly confronted with the need to come up with creative solutions to current challenges. Creativity is best partnered with inspiration and learning from the best; and inspiration was indeed found when Cape Town hosted Tedx in July.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the TED movement, TED is a non-profit organisation that is devoted to ‘ideas worth spreading’. 25 years ago a 4-day conference was held in California, providing each speaker with an opportunity to talk for 18 minutes. Since then TED has grown exponentially and many of the world's thought leaders have given presentations here. The 18-minute talks can be downloaded and watched free of charge.

Ready and rearing to find out how our local talent interpreted the theme ‘what we play is life’, I headed off to the Baxter theatre to spend a day with Ted(x) (x for independently organised). Slightly concerned that I wouldn’t be able to manage a full day of ‘lectures’, I soon realised that these fears were totally unfounded. Not only were we not lectured to, but more than that we were taken on a journey where life stories, personal revelations and moments of overcoming created a space for dialogue, exploring of new ideas and re-energising.

Arthur Attwell, founder of Paperight, is one such overcomer. As a publisher he knows the amount it costs to get a book transported to rural Africa. He also knows there isn’t enough money or access to resources to ensure that books will reach those that need it most. The solution: set up a website encourage printing and photocopying companies to purchase rights to the books that their patrons need, and then print out the book at a fourth of the price. A creative solution to a very real problem.  

Warren Nilsson shared his thoughts on how to create sustainable change. Co-founder of Organisation Unbound, Warren shared how, along with his organisation, he is on a journey exploring and attempting to understand how real change can be experienced within social purpose organisations. Looking into the experiences of those working in the social change sector, Warren noted that there is a large gap between the organisation’s mission statement and how they actually function within the organisation. He also found that those working for most social purpose organisations did not feel the organisations overall aims were being achieved at ‘home’.  Morality, creativity, and meaning were low as a result and his argument is that for sustainable change to take place within an organisation, individuals, whether working in the corporate sector or social sector, need to share their experiences. Being able to respect and respond to these can lead to true change as individuals are encouraged to change and develop first in themselves and then in a way that dramatically affects the organisation in which they are working.

Peter Greenwall presented a hilarious view on how to learn lessons from failure (, a challenge was laid down by Louise van Rhyn on taking responsibility for the education of our children (, and Chris Locker spoke about a new way of looking at finance (

Perhaps the most powerful weapon Tedx has, is the story.  There is something about listening to the real life experiences of the speakers that touches the listener in a way that demands a response, even if this response is just the start of an internal change.    

In the project management context, teaching through story telling is a powerful weapon in the project/change manager’s armoury. Storytelling has the power to engage stakeholders on the change journey and is a quick, easy and memorable way of conveying lessons learned. Stories have the ability to get hearts and minds engaged in the change process and they prompt people to self-reflect, and encourage the personalisation of knowledge.

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Issue 29


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