TEDxGreenville Salons + chicken fingers & apple sauce

If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you watch TED videos (www.TED.com) on a fairly regular basis. If not, you’re missing out on free information created by the best minds in the world that will make your brain work better.

For three years, we’ve had the privilege of being on the board and part of the planning team for TEDxGreenville, the first independently organized TED event in South Carolina. One of the many things I love about TEDxGreenville is its purity- there are no agendas, no profit motives, etc. The sole purpose of this movement is to find and highlight Ideas Worth Spreading (and amazing talent/performers) right here in the Upstate.

Recently, we received permission from momma TED to start doing monthly TEDxGreenvilleSalon events. Our purpose for wanting to do these Salon events was pretty simple: “weave the tapestry.” Let me explain…

TEDxGreenville event tickets sell pretty quickly and usually have a hefty wait list. The problem we identified early on was that event participants were largely comprised of “people like us”- younger, WASPy, techie types. Nothing wrong with that, other than the fact that: 1.) Greenville is a remarkably diverse community, 2.) There are worlds of knowledge and insights to be earned by those willing to explore the boundaries of their personal comfort and culture, and 3.) Communities that “get this” prosper. The Medici’s had this figured out long before we did.

So, how does an event or a movement become more inclusive? Thoughtfully. Purposefully.

For starters, the core TEDxGreenville planning team needed to include more of the people that are already out there doing amazing things in their respective communities- people like Maxim Williams, Adela Mendoza, Ben Riddle (and I could easily continue naming folks for a few more lines). The TEDxGreenville Inclusion Team is now comprised of an extraordinary group of people representing diverse ages, genders, skin pigmentation (aka “race”), religions, etc.

The Inclusion Team drives the decisions as to what communities to hold the Salons in next, who the champions of those Salons will be within those communities, what the event themes will be, speakers, TED videos, etc. The result: packed events that truly represent the communities in which they’re hosted. We learn from them, they learn from us, we all win and grow better- together.

A couple of nights ago, we enjoyed the latest TEDxGreenvilleSalon TODOS INcluded (a “Spanglish” word dreamed up by Adela Mendoza). Things kicked off when Greenville Hospital interpreter Irma Luna told a deeply moving personal story about the tragic loss of her sibling at birth (due to kidnapping) and her family’s sense of hopelessness in that moment due to an inability to communicate in English. Her message of personal hope and purpose brought the room to a standing ovation (and tears).

Greenville Tech President Dr. Keith Miller followed Irma with insights into the need for leaders to embrace, not avoid, differences within an organization (or in their personal lives). Dr. Miller went on to say that rather than striving for a cultural “melting pot” (which implies blending multiple cultures into a single, uniform culture) we should challenge ourselves to build a cultural “tapestry” (which implies that each culture brings its own valuable experiences and insights to the table while maintaining their unique identities). Dr. Miller concluded with a story about Abraham Lincoln—perhaps the most respected President in U.S. history—who intentionally selected a diverse group of people for his cabinet, many of whom held completely different views and ideas than him, in order to help understand and overcome the myriad challenges he faced in uniting a divided nation. Ideas Worth Spreading indeed.

Life is more than chicken fingers and apple sauce. If all of your friends (or employees) look and think like you do, stop and consider all the wonderful “spices” you’re missing out on in life. It’s an amazing world we share, and we can experience and understand more of it by connecting to the richness of the diversity around us. Consciously and thoughtfully expand your connectivity with the world. Start now, for your own sake.

And if you have a few minutes more to enrich yourself, please enjoy this TED video shared during TODOS INcluded: