Chris Anderson (born 1957) is the owner of TED, a nonprofit organisation that provides idea-based talks and hosts an annual conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada*.

In July 2011, Patrick Pittman of Dumbo Feather engaged Anderson in an interesting conversation about TED, its beginnings and the story of its growth into what it has become. At the beginning of the conversation, Pittman asked Anderson about his experience when he first attended TED, way before his Sapling Foundation eventually bought it from Future Plc. in 2001.

That moment, Pittman asked, when you first went to TED, and decided that you were going to buy this conference—was that a lightning bolt moment, an “I have to do this”? And Anderson replied:

It was a very powerful first year experience. It was not on the first day, there was bafflement mainly then—why on earth was I listening to people from all these different disciplines? Did I really need to listen to architects, primatologists and so on? It did not make sense, because we don’t normally do that. We’re interested in the thing that we’re working on. Most of us have tunnel vision and we’re focused on that. We’re told that that’s what you have to do to be successful—focus, dig deep, all that sort of stuff, to the extent that many people have lost the context of their work, and the fact that knowledge is connected. You actually don’t really truly understand anything unless you understand the context in which it happens.

There is unbelievable inspiration and wisdom to be gained from listening to people well outside your field.

The breakthrough spark often comes from outside the little box in which you’re focused. All those things in their different moments were clear in a way at that very first TED.

The full interview is, as at the time of publication of this insight, still available on the Dumbo Feather website. Spice up your intellectual itinerary for today with this worthwhile read.

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