Seven days ago I was sitting in my hotel room getting ready to leave for a dress rehearsal for TEDx Grand Rapids. I sleep horribly in hotel rooms, so I was half awake and nervous, having practiced my talk for the 70th time. This morning I’m sitting at my desk in Palo Alto and as I look back I’m still stunned at the professionalism and the passion of everyone involved in the event. I’d like to share some of the things that stood out for me from the event, the talks, and the people I was honoured to meet.
Many online communities parade their community size stats as if it were the only measure of success. As a result it’s easy to think that’s the most important metric for every community. This can trip you up, and force you to chase the wrong goals. For some communities, size isn’t the most important metric. Take OpenIDEO for instance, sure at some point we knew that global participation was important, and you need to maintain a balance between different kinds of community members (we value diversity or participation), but we’ve learned in the last year that encouraging smart, active, and engaged participants is vital to the success of the social challenges that we run. That’s the reason why last year we were delighted to hear from Tracy Brandenburg, professor at Wells College in New York. She wrote to us to tell us the story about how she had been using the OpenIDEO food challenge we ran with the Queensland Government as the backbone to her design course. We quickly got her on the phone and we learned that she had asked her students to go above and beyond what regular participants do. Here’s Tracy talking about the task she set her students: