The annual exchange of contrarian thinking, heartrending stories of overcoming and dispatches from the near future will see TEDx speakers take to the stage in Portland this Saturday.
The Business Tribune had an upfront chat with three of them.
Paloma Medina owns and operates 11:11 Supply, a store in the Fair-haired Dumbbell, that colorful, asymmetrical building at the east end of the Burnside Bridge. 11:11 Supply sells "beautiful work tools," or notebooks, pens and calendars, but Medina is an organizational psychologist. TEDx bills her as "an expert in the neuroscience behind equity and the psychology on how to improve our work and personal lives." She runs workshops and even counsels people in-store about their work-life balance.
The 11:11 mission is "to make every person feel capable and empowered to create better days and better lives for themselves."
Medina was a coach working in tech companies to improve performance but wanted to move to Portland. She had also worked in book, shoe, clothing and record stores before, including a new age bookstore (crystals, tarot, psychic readings) called Alexandria II in Pasadena near Los Angeles. She brainstormed what to do in Portland while hanging on to some tech clients, and hit upon retail.
"I looked at the interface with psychology and neuroscience, and at the tools: notebooks, planners, paper spreadsheets, the right pens and pencils. And I thought maybe that's what to sell. That's how we apply the psychology."
Holding on to some tech clients she was able to open 11:11 Supply.
Even in a fully digital age, pen and paper have power. "There is a lot of good research that retention and synthesis go up when we use pen and paper, when use our hands to write, not type. I encourage people to try it."
But the capture devices have to be ubiquitous, not napkins and Post-Its, and they have to be indexable.
"You also have to transfer some things to the digital world and not have it redundant, if you want to keep track of something for more than a few weeks."
You recommend people buy gold scissors?
"The little things like beautiful scissors, it's more about feeling a connection to an object that reminds you you are in control of your life or that life is beautiful. There's some fine research that the aesthetic of a thing decreases cortisol and increases serotonin. It is calming by looking around and finding beauty. You can own 30 crappy pens but maybe only one you feel proud to hold."
And why brick and mortar retail?
"Brick and mortar has two beautiful advantages. Unlike Google, I'm only going to give you two answers, and if you're going to use something every day it's good to have it in your hand first."
Canada-based Mancunian Steve Oldham is CEO of Carbon Engineering, a Canadian-based clean energy company. His company's technology promises to capture CO2 directly from the atmosphere, to reduce the greenhouse effect, and synthesizes it into clean, affordable transportation fuel.
"We see a lot about climate change that is catastrophic — like the student walkouts. The feeling that 'My god, I've got to do something now.' But there's not much about what we can do that's feasible. Can we stop fossil fuel use with a billon cars in the world? We like to get on planes and we have an interconnected economy. How can we solve this in an affordable way while allowing our economy and lifestyle to grow?"
The equipment is already available in other industrial applications, such as cooling towers and water treatment. It uses a proprietary chemical-based process.
"We have no consumables Once we start a plant running, it runs for good."
Occidental, Chevron, BHP the mining company are all investors. "The only limitation is financial. There's no limit in terms of land sequestration."
The baseline for a plant is 30 acres, "but it can be as big as you want. It doesn't have to be near a city. People confuse CO2 with pollution."
He says the TEDx talk is not a sales pitch for the company, more "About giving people the visibility that there are ways to do this. I will share in the talk about how this is feasible. Emission control is important, but we also have to remove CO2. My main message is it's feasible, it's doable. The technologies exist."
Nandini Ranganathan is founder and Executive Director of Make+Think+Code, which is the Pacific Northwest College of Art's creative technology lab. She has a Ph.D. in Mathematics and wants to expand access to cutting-edge technology and design education.
"I'm talking about the importance of including people of varied interests and backgrounds in complex problem-solving, not just experts."
She wants to see city people, artists, academics and people from industry getting together to solve problems, because good ideas can come from a number of places. This includes nonprofits and advocates so they're in the room when they're developing policies.
"From what I've seen in Portland there's a strong interest in engagement, and knowing you're not just there for watching, you are going to be part of the solution, not just 'This is nice!' but essential. It's about empowering them as a whole." Misinformation has become a real problem and is hindering trying to solve climate change or houselessness. And she is fighting it.
She wants scripted chaos, not a free for all.
"I work at an art and design school, and creativity has a huge role. But you need to have time. Sometimes it comes naturally, sometimes it's unexpected. We talk about risk and innovation but we have to let that happen. It can lead to unexpected breakthroughs but not incremental changes.
"As someone who works with artists and mathematicians, the point of these fields is you have to try experiments. We tend to assume it's easier to always go through expertise: we leave it to the experts because it's a simpler path. But that's not so for the most complex problems.
"I haven't scripted this before, it's a little more spontaneous. It hopefully will have more impact, and maybe inspire people to try different things." She has her students watch TED talks because they're inspiring. "It could be the idea is big, or they're people who can realize how impactful even small ideas can be. It's not just about dramatic brilliance, it's about how individuals can make a difference."
When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday,
Where: Keller Auditorium,
222 S.W. Clay St.
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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