What Are The Big Ideas From
The Atlantic's New York Ideas Conference
Discussion of the big ideas included everything from the impact of food blogs and book-jacket design, to high-storage date capability to 3-D manufacturing design.
Well, if there was one common word that celebrated the Big Ideas it would be 'DISRUPT'!
So here we go ....
1. Fund-raisers are working more like corporations
A panel titled "Disrupting the Old Philanthropy" explored how charitable organizations are taking lessons from the business world to help measure their work and increase its impact. Nancy Mahon, the former executive director of God's Love We Deliver and now the global executive director of the MAC AIDS Fund and a senior vice president at Estée Lauder, spoke about the need for metrics around philanthropic endeavors, such as the sales of a lipstick with a charitable tie-in. "Working in a corporation, I'm a sharper thinker and a better investor."
Panelists Lauren Bush Lauren, C.E.O. and co-founder of FEED Projects, and Jessica Jackley, a venture partner at the Collaborative Fund and co-founder of the micro-lending site Kiva, spoke about how consumers are looking to their employers and the companies they buy from to reflect their values. Jackley spoke of encouraging people to take a more integrated approach to work, investing, and philanthropy: "What really changes the world is not getting corporations to give more, but [changing] how individuals choose to spend their time and their brainpower."
2. People are really excited about 3-D printers
While the technology is not that new, the cost has come down enough that more people can afford them for rapid prototyping and model-making. "I wonder if, when the hammer came out, people were sitting at conferences saying, 'Have you heard about the hammer?'" asked Jessica Banks, co-founder of Rock Paper Robot, a furniture and lighting company.
3. The Internet can help you build an audience—but you have to nurture it constantly
In a conversation with three bloggers who have built significant brands and followings, they all stressed the importance of regular communication. "Blogging is putting out a steady stream of content that an audience can rely on," said Brandon Stanton, a photographer with a Tumblr blog called Humans of New York that has more than 700,000 fans on Facebook. And online content builds relationships that become platforms for other uses. "The Internet is not designed to make you money," he said, but it helps you build a name that can make money in other ways.
Simple design can have complicated reasons, though. "Simplicity is an illusion sometimes," said Paola Antonelli, senior curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art. Apple's iPhones and iPads look uncomplicated, but they perform lots of complicated tasks. And they don't adhere to the notion that form follows function—you don't know what they do until you turn them on. In her own work at MoMA, where people are probably encountering her exhibits on the way to see works by Picasso or Matisse, Antonelli said, "I want them to walk into my show and in five minutes something is already deposited." They have learned something about design, whether they realize it or not. "Communication is what I'm after."
5. Consumers want friendly expertise
Mario Batali was the more famous of two people on a food panel, but he spent more time praising his fellow panelist, Deb Perelman, who writes the popular food blog the Smitten Kitchen. "I like the wide-eyed and happy approach to writing about food," Batali said, describing his own approach to books and television, as well as Perelman's. (He also said Jimmy Fallon's upcoming promotion to host of The Tonight Show stems from the fun, snark-free tone of his Late Night show.)
"There are enough people who are telling you you're doing it wrong," Perelman said. "I'm not really interested in that."
6. The most important trend in social media is visual story telling
"In a world where people are overloaded with content, having great imagery to support a story is very important," said Pete Cashmore, founder and C.E.O. of the social-media-obsessed news site Mashable.
7. Social media calls for personal voices
As Cashmore recalled using "we" in product reviews in the early days of Mashable, when he was a one-person staff writing from his bedroom in Scotland, he noted a change in tone: "Now big companies pretend to be smaller companies, because that's cooler."
Now I have one other big idea: I'm going to have a nice omellete with feta cheese and spinach this morning with a fresh squeezed glass of grapefruit juice.