Ideas go big

January 24, 2011 at 7:51 pm 5 comments

by John Craig

One day three years ago, I woke up and I knew that the event we were planning should be called a Festival of Ideas.  I thought someone else had said it in the meeting, but everyone denied it.  I must have got it from somewhere, but I’ve no idea where (I know,  I know – as stories go, it isn’t quite Paul McCartney waking up singing ‘yesterday’).  Three years later, it seems like Festival of Ideas are everywhere – indeed there’s a huge one coming up, a collaboration between TEDx and the Observer.  There are even others commenting on the tag, and finding our work as a result, which is great.  Hello to Festival of Ideas organisers everywhere!

That’s a fun coincidence, but I also wonder what more it says.  First, it seems to say, despite the recession in economics, that with the arrival of a new UK government – whatever I think of them – there is a renewed interest in ideas.  For example, did you know that the UK Government has just hosted the first UK Nordic Baltic Summit?  It brought together heads of state and over a hundred thinkers from different countries around how we can make people happier.  It’s also interesting to look at Apple’s advertising on the Tube – whole-page adverts for a TED app!?

Second, I think it also says that we are frustrated with conventional approaches to solving social problems – from the very local frustration with the dominance of an approach called the ‘meeting’ to a culture of dissatisfaction with politics and professionals and experts.  I hope, in our small way, Innovation Unit can help with that this year, and I am still really excited about our next Festival in Leeds in March.


Entry filed under: Innovation Worldwide.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Raj  |  January 25, 2011 at 10:27 am

    How exciting – there appears to be a Festival of Ideas movement going on in different parts of the country. Now, I started at Innovation Unit the same time as John – and remember vividly who said those first words – Valerie Hannon – one of Innovation Unit’s board members. I remember because I had absolutely no idea what that meant – and was very scared about what i’d gotten myself into!

    I love the idea of ‘ideas sex’ and loads of ideas spawning from this. But i think a Festival of Ideas can also be much more than this. Often we have a picture of ‘ideas people’ working away on a new invention in their garages, pubs or some other trendy place. In my head, I still have that picture. But I also have a parallel picture of the senior colleague sitting in a government building wondering how the heck they are going to deliver services on a reduced budget for people who need the support?

    It’s about creating a space where all these people can come together and have a conversation about the challenge itself and start looking at the challenge differently. No promises, no guarantees – just talking about the possibilities of innovation.

  • 2. Claire McEneaney  |  January 25, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    John – this is great! You guys have started a movement!

    I think people are very frustrated by the conventional approachs to solving social problems. That is something thats come through really strongly in our work in Early Years, and also in Barnet.

    People are valuing a much more hands-on approach, where there is more action than talk, and when talk happens its with a new and diverse group – gaining valuable new insights and alternative viewpoints. I know our sites have found talking to service users and really understanding their lives incredibly powerful in terms of helping them to problem solve in a much more meaningful way.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Innovation_Unit, TEDxME. TEDxME said: Ideas go big « Disciplined Innovation: Three years later, it seems like Festival of Ideas are everywhere – indee… […]

  • 4. alecpatton  |  January 28, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Can the campaign for a John Craig Ted Talk start now? Surely if it were entitled ‘Ideas Sex’ it would be one of their more popular podcasts.

  • 5. Dave Appleby  |  February 1, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Scary! It happened to me once. A friend and I were driving down the motorway chatting about Sheldrake fields in which thoughts can set up morphic resonances and create forms. We decided to give it a go. Since we were heading for Lancaster University we imagined a ‘Lancashire Pudding’. As far as we knew this was an entirely fictional creation. Imagine our surprise on entering a service station cafe to find Lancashire Pudding on the menu!

    I still think the power of our thoughts created this.


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