The TED Dream 2016 conference is not for the faint of heart. I know a lot about my field of kidney transplantation and patient education. Every day in my UCLA research lab, I work with transplant professionals, conduct research, write journal articles, and design and test whether new educational programs work. Before TED started, I flew in early to give a Grand Rounds talk to the entire transplant community in Vancouver.
However, I came to TED to talk to other accomplished professionals to challenge my own knowledge and think outside the box. I am sure I will learn more listening to the many inspiring talks that started yesterday. But, before and after the talks, in the elevator, the food court, and at the bar, every TED attendee you meet asks you what ideas are important to you, what you working on, and what you most want to improve. Those who are interested in your subject – your people – ask more questions and then provide challenges and insights. The experience is like being in an academic decathlon for five days with 1,500 friendly people.
TED conversations are laser-focused on the ‘Idea.’ Is your Idea important to solve? (Consensus: Yes). Is education about living donation the best way to solve it? What is the business and economic case for solving it? What is the market share of the people you want to help who have been reached by your approach? Why has it not been solved before? What other similar things have been solved successfully in the past? How much money do you need to solve it? Where do we need to be in 10 years with this problem? Will new technologies and innovations make the need for donated kidneys obsolete anyway?
A veteran said that you will get about 50 insights or connections during TED that will result in 20 valuable contributions that benefit your goal. I had 30 conversations like this on the first day alone. The often repeated coaching tip at TED to “eat, sleep, and drink plenty of water” now makes a lot more sense. I am glad that I got a Ph.D. and defended a dissertation before I came here.