What’s new? Quite a lot if you search the term “innovation award” using the Google search engine. The “Michael J. Fox Foundation Innovation Award,” the “Fierce Innovation Awards,” the “Japan U.S. Innovation Award and Tanabata Festival," and of course, the National Parking Association’s prestigious Innovation Awards to recognize outstanding professionals and businesses in the parking industry. Without the NPA’s drive to innovate, sports stadiums just would not be the same.
As Google shows, there are hundreds of innovation awards to win across the U.S. and there are thousands of innovators and entrepreneurs who want to win one. Many of them were at the hothouse of innovation operated by the TED conference team at the Long Beach Convention Center this week. The TED website lists a few examples of the frontiers of innovation as “bike repair, hacking, sculpting in cardboard, 3D printing, homebrewing beer and more.”
The innovation community got a reality check when the Thursday, February 28 panels came to a close. The battery of a Cadillac limousine waiting to whisk conference attendees to important dinner discussions died. The bike repair innovators had no special magic to get the auto running again. The semi-circular one way driveway was lined with limousines on both sides, limousines that could go nowhere while the local AAA auto club repair vehicle tried recharging the battery the old-fashioned way with jumper cables. Sometimes, even innovators need a jump start.
This real life test of the tech innovation community took place just a hundred yards away from the venue of the annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. At this motorsports event, well trained teams have backup electronics and can change a battery in about a minute. And they don’t have to shut down an entire motorway to do it. They may not have Ph.D’s like many TED attendees, but they know that practice makes perfect and they practice a lot.
The TED innovation community is getting the message. This year’s conference welcomed the founders of Boosted Boards to the main discussion forum. The young team of Ph. D’s from Sunnyvale, California is applying advanced technology to the urban sport of skateboarding.
Next year, TED is taking on a new challenge. TEDActive will launch on March 14, 2014 in Whistler, Canada, site of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Participants will engage in the same kinds of digital design and future vision discussions as in previous TED conferences. But they will also be challenged to be inspired by the sports and fitness challenges that dominate the Whistler landscape. Believers in the expression “Change is Good” have made the TED conference one of the most successful of its kind. This move towards sports could give it a new lease on life.