Taking responsibility for our own statistics

Last year I started a series of blogs on things that interest me which have a TED or TEDx angle. These might be my responses to watching TED and TEDx talks, or interesting things that TED and TEDx talks could shed some light on.

I haven’t had time to watch many new TED talks this year. But this week I have made some space for statistics in honour of Hans Rosling, who died on 7th February. He was a TED favourite, lighting up the stage with his passion for communicating statistics about important things to the world. Here he is in action…

It struck me as interesting timing that Alan Smith’s talk on “Why you should love statistics” at TEDxExeter 2016 was published on TED.com just before Rosling’s death. Perhaps there is a baton being handed on here.

It also struck me that we have a responsibility for our own data and statistics, because they reflect ourselves and the way we see the world. Whether it’s how we take care of our bodies – data on types of calories we eat, and calories we burn off in exercise – or our minds – minutes during the day we allow ourselves to switch off, or number of TED talks we watch per month! – or how we take care of the world – our carbon footprint, or how much time or money we give to others.

The Iona Community is “An ecumenical Christian community of men and women from different walks of life and different traditions in the Church engaged together, and with people of goodwill across the world, in acting, reflecting and praying for justice, peace and the integrity of creation; convinced that the inclusive community we seek must be embodied in the community we practice.” Its Members commit themselves to a short Rule of life which includes “accounting with one another for the use of our gifts, money and time, our use of the earth’s resources…”

Whether or not you share the Christian faith, these words describe a helpful discipline, which also harks back to Mike Dickson’s talk at TEDxExeter 2012 on “What is Enough?”. Alan Smith’s talk encouraged us to think about our local communities, about what we know and what we think we know. And then… all our lifestyle choices affect others. The inclusive community we seek must be embodied in the community we practice.

Clare Bryden, TEDxExeter Storyteller

Alan Smith on TED.com

We should be fascinated by numbers says Alan Smith in his challenging and amusing TEDxExeter talk. And TED must agree as it has selected his as one of the few TEDx talks that are featured on  TED.com. We are delighted that, as a result it will reach a much larger, global audience. The statistics (yes) show that this is a rare honour. Fewer than 1 per cent of TEDx talks feature on TED, and Alan’s is the 8th TEDxExeter talk to be chosen.

In his talk Alan Smith, who is data visualisation editor at The Financial Times, uses statistics to illustrate the massive difference between perception and reality in many areas of life. “Statistics are most wonderful when they surprise us,” he says. “They are about us as a group … the science of us, and that’s why we should be fascinated by numbers.”

Amusingly he demonstrates that the National Statistician and Jeremy Paxman are just as likely not to know what’s really going on in their neighbourhood as anyone else. He also busts the myth that some people are good at numbers, while others aren’t.

“I am thrilled that this talk has been selected for TED.com,” said Alan Smith. “It’s increasingly hard to avoid statistics in modern life – so we need to learn to love them for what they are: surprising, revealing and the key to answering so many important questions.”

TEDxExeter organiser and licensee Claire Kennedy adds: “We are delighted that an eighth TEDxExeter talk has been selected for TED.com. We already know from our own website stats that we have visitors from around the world; now these talks will be seen by an even greater global audience.

“Alan presents numbers in ways that we can all understand – even those who have thought themselves bad at numbers since maths lessons at school. Not only does he challenge prejudices and misunderstanding, he also makes you laugh. It is great news that Alan’s ideas will now reach people all around the world through TED.com.”

Deeyah Khan on TED.com

We are delighted that Deeyah Khan’s TEDxExeter 2016 talk has been chosen to feature on TED.com – an honour less than 1 per cent of TEDx talks achieve. It is the 7th talk from Exeter to be selected.

Building relationships is key to stopping the cycle of violence, says Emmy and Peabody award-winning documentary film director, Deeyah Khan. Born in Norway to immigrant parents of Pashtun and Punjabi ancestry, she experienced many of the difficulties Muslim children growing up in European countries can face. Aged 17, she fled from Norway confused, lost and torn between cultures. She chose film and music as the language for her social activism, not a gun.

Deeyah’s first, award-winning film, Banaz, explored a so-called ‘honour killing’ in the UK. Her second film, the Bafta-nominated Jihad involved two years of interviews and filming with Islamic extremists, convicted terrorists and former jihadis. In her TEDxExeter talk “What we don’t know about Europe’s Muslim kids” she tells some of their stories and sheds light on the clash of cultures between Muslim parents who prioritise honour and their children’s desire for freedom. She argues that we need to understand what is happening to fight the pull to extremism.

Deeyah Khan’s talk will reach a much larger audience on TED.com. 64,000 people have already watched the talk. Now it will attract a potential audience of millions around the world.

“I’m both delighted and honoured that my talk has been one of those selected to appear on TED.com,” says Deeyah Khan. “Radicalisation is the most pressing problem of our age. Each violent act by extremists creates an increasing cycle of hatred which tears our communities apart.

“Through the research and interviews I carried out in the development of my documentary Jihad, I believe that one of the most effective means of stopping the cycle of violence is through building relationships. This can be difficult when young people feel themselves to be growing up between cultures, and belonging in neither.

“I am pleased that TED has given me this opportunity to share some simple ideas of how we can all work together to stop the cycle of violence and bring our communities back together.”

Introverted Leadership

Amongst the spate of celebrity deaths over Christmas was one that only slightly stippled the sea of press coverage. On Christmas Eve, the author Richard Adams died at the ripe old age of 96. He was best known for writing Watership Down, a tale of rabbits.

Not promising, but it is such a tale of rabbits. When I was a child I must have read it dozens of times, to the extent that it became a running joke with family friends. I still have my bruised and battered copy signed by Adams. But it is not a children’s book. The themes are of prophets and prophecy, politics and leadership, refugees seeking a new home, religion and story, freedom and well-being, dictatorship and social control, war and peace, human relationship with the rest of nature, and many others. These I can now understand, having recently reread it as an adult.

Why did I enjoy reading and rereading it so much? Partly because the setting was not far from my childhood home – I knew the country. Partly because it is a great story – *** SPOILER ALERT *** the good guys hoodwink the bad guys big league, and peace wins. And partly because it reflected an important part of my character back at me.

That’s only something I came to understand when I read an article by Susan Cain, following up on her TED talk on “The Power of Introverts”. Cain’s original message – that we introverts exist and have plenty to offer – was not new to me. I was very glad that she shared it, and that it has been heard and embraced by so many. The theme of her article, though, opened my eyes to what I value in leadership, what I see and experience as good leadership, and why Watership Down was perhaps so unusual and appealing.

If only I could find that article again! My memory of it was as a coherent and focused overview of introverted leadership, assuming that the basic message about introverts was already understood. If you find it, please send me the link!

It might have been this article in the NY Times, in which Cain quotes management guru quoted Peter Drucker: “The one and only personality trait the effective [leaders] I have encountered did have in common was something they did not have: They had little or no ‘charisma’ and little use either for the term or for what it signifies.” She also name-checked Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great”, who described the best leaders as “somewhat self-effacing individuals” possessing “a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will”.

Here is some other stuff she might have written, or I might have just made up based on my experience of small to reasonably large organisations:

  • The best leaders are not cheer leaders and tub-thumpers with big personalities
  • The best leaders do not jump in, make hasty decisions, act before thinking
  • The best leaders do not expect everyone to conform to their own point of view, style, and approach
  • The best leaders are not be in the faces of their staff all the time, relentlessly expecting team-building
  • The best leaders are more likely to be thinking, weighing up options, considering what is best for their people, and valuing each of them as individuals
  • The best leaders are less likely to lead from the front, to take all the responsibilities and glory to themselves
  • The best leaders are more likely to draw on others’ experience and skills; to bear the burden, yes, but to listen and delegate

So back to Watership Down. In the original cohort of rabbits, there were two potential leaders: Hazel and Bigwig. Bigwig was the extravert; always ready to jump in, say his bit, and preferably cuff his subordinate; the fighter seeking glory and honour, and willing to sacrifice himself for the cause. Hazel was the introvert; younger, less experienced, reticent; willing to listen to the weaker members of the group, and value everything that others have to offer; willing to try new things, to venture into the unknown both geographically and sociologically; to strategise and problem solve, rather than confront directly; to seek peace and cooperation, rather than war and empire building, but not afraid to fight where necessary; and to sacrifice himself to protect his own.

The genius of Adams in Watership Down is that Hazel is chosen as the leader. That is probably why I found it so appealing as an introverted and shy child, and why I think it should be first on the reading list of anyone on any management and leadership programme, whether in government, military, business, or third sector.

Clare Bryden, TEDxExeter Storyteller

Danny Dorling on TED.com

See the world anew and discover hope for the future says Danny Dorling as his TEDxExeter talk is featured on TED.com.

We are delighted that Danny’s powerful talk has been featured on TED.com, the 6th talk from TEDxExeter to be featured on the main TED site.

“There are a huge number of good news stories in the world,” says Danny Dorling in his 2016 TEDxExeter talk: “Maps that show us who we are (not just where we are)”. And now his talk is on TED.com many more people around the world will hear about the constant, incremental changes for the better that rarely feature in the print and broadcast media.

Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford, challenges us to examine some of our beliefs about the world and open our minds to a new, often unreported reality. Using beautiful and unfamiliar world maps created by Ben Hennig (and shown in colour for the first time) he shows us that in many ways life is slowly getting better and there’s much to be optimistic about, as long as we continue to connect with each other.

“I’m very glad TED has decided to feature the talk I gave at TEDxExeter,” said Danny. “In it I examine new ways of viewing the world, its future, and how we can be a little less afraid if we do not see other people as being our enemy as much as we currently do. We currently fear people from other countries too much, we fear that those in faraway places are taking ‘our jobs’, we fear what we do not know. But if we begin to see the world as a whole, as the place from which we all get our food, as the place that we all pollute, then as our global population begins to stabilise we can learn to become less fearful. Some people learn faster than others. The British Prime Minister, Teresa May, recently said that ‘if you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere’. It is not her fault that she was taught geography at time before we could map all the citizens of the world and see that we are each just such a citizen.”

“I hope you watch the talk if only to see the weird and wonderful ways in which Benjamin Hennig has remapped the planet. Seeing the earth shaped in proportion to the amount of rain that falls, and how that changes over a year, shows the planet as a single entity that almost appears to have an annual heartbeat. Seeing all the humans of the world drawn on a single projection can help us realise that imagining all of humanity as one is not beyond the scope of our collective imaginations. Let’s see the world anew!”

Ben Hennig has also used this method of remapping the world to map the result of the US presidential election and show that not only did most voters who voted not vote for Trump (which people know), but also that an even larger majority of Americans live in areas which did not vote for Trump. See more on Ben’s website Views of the World.

Democrat areas are coloured blue on Ben’s map of the election result. On the traditional map it looks as if Trump had a great deal of support. On the map adjusted to correctly represent the number of people living in an area it is made clear that only a small minority of Americans supported him and that he has only won office due to the US voting system and because there is so much disaffection there (so many people don’t vote).

Danny’s TEDxExeter talk was based on a book he wrote with Carl Lee called ‘Geography’.

His new book A Better Politics can be downloaded as a PDF here. The book was timed for publication on the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s book ‘Utopia’ which is this month (‘Utopia’ was originally published in Latin in very late 1516).

You can find out more about Danny’s work at dannydorling.org and @dannydorling.

Giving TED talks to know you’re not alone

I recently opined that deep down we watch TED talks to know we’re not alone. It subsequently struck me that because we can see the number of views, and comment and read other’s comments on each talk, we can be certain that we are not alone in watching TED talks.

And that led me to reflecting on the speakers’ perspective. Now that so many statistics are collected on the number of times a talk is viewed and the related web pages are accessed, the speaker knows they are not alone too. There are dangers: that they compare themselves to others, or they feel under extreme pressure not to fail and let their viewers down, or they are Brené Brown. But I’m hoping that it would a great encouragement to them to keep on keeping on.

More than that; it’s not just the speakers. At TEDxExeter 2014, Karima Bennoune told four powerful stories of people who are living under Islamist fundamentalist repression. A year later, in her update she said: “Cherifa Kheddar and other victims’ families counted the number of views of my TED talk – the talk containing their stories – as those views accumulated. And I did not realize how much it would mean to them that hundreds of thousands of people around the world would listen, so please keep sharing that talk and this one as a sign of your support not of me but of them.”

So do keep watching, keep sharing, keep commenting (constructively!), and keep encouraging each other.

Clare Bryden, TEDxExeter Storyteller

Watching TED talks to know you’re not alone

There are myriads of reasons why people watch TED and TEDx talks, and myriads of outcomes.

Some might want to be entertained with interesting facts about the world, or music or humour, or to be challenged to think in new ways about the world.

Others might want to find a campaign to support, and there are plenty of talks describing plenty of opportunities, not least the talks at TEDxExeter 2015 by Matthew Owen about Cool Earth and by Carmel McConnell about Magic Breakfast. Of course, it’s possible that it’s the talk which grabs the unsuspecting viewer by the scruff of the neck and makes them start the campaign. Bandi Mbubi’s talk at the first TEDxExeter inspired a group of people to coalesce around him and found Congo Calling.

Yet others might be looking for new ways of doing things in the workplace. Alan Smith’s talk at TEDxExeter this year may well be inspiring many to use more data visualisation in the decision-making process. Others might be looking for new ways of being and seeking to change themselves, or seeking to affirm themselves, but they are challenged anyway.

Scientists have found that “when we read a story and really understand it, we create a mental simulation of the events described by the story”. It is as though reading a novel or biography adds to our experience of the world, a safe way of trying things out. Perhaps watching TED talks also enables us to try on for size new approaches to working, living, viewing the world, or even new selves.

A talk like Manwar Ali’s on Jihad, also at TEDxExeter 2016, holds up a mirror to the choices we all face between light and dark, our potential for violence and for peace. Going off the TEDxExeter piste now, Brené Brown’s talk takes us through the experience of allowing our self to be vulnerable and life to be uncertain. Susan Cain asks us to empathise with introverts, recognise their strengths, and maybe gives some the lightbulb moment of realisation that that is who they are.

CS Lewis wrote of “the few” and “the many” readers. “The few” are those who seek out space to read, who must read, who often re-read books, and who are open to being deeply changed by what they read. “The many” read when there is nothing else claiming their attention, do not re-read, and show no sign of being changed by what they read. I would like to coin “the TED few”, who would be those who make space for new ideas, who often re-watch talks, and who are open to being deeply changed by what they see and hear.

Much of my reading is by people who have similar interests: who have or are seeking a sense of place; who are living and working prophetically; who have experienced the struggles and sometimes the successes. Recent examples include Spiritual Activism by Alastair McIntosh and Matt Carmichael, and Daybook, the Journey of an Artist by Anne Truitt. I am not reading in order to follow their example or recreate what they are doing, but because through their stories I learn that I am not particularly special or different, that others have similar goals to mine, and that they doubt and lack confidence and have struggles too. And that somehow gives me hope and the energy to persevere a while longer.

In a similar vein, my prime motivation for watching TED talks is to find other people who are risking and creating and doing great stuff. So I tend to gravitate to the talks on creativity and art, like Peter Randall-Page’s talk at TEDxExeter 2015, and two of my favourites by Janet Echelman and Stefan Sagmeister. It means I am often tempted towards envy, and thinking that I wish I could do or had done that. I need to remember that I won’t do the same thing, but I will do some thing, and I should focus on and celebrate that thing. What I am seeking from TED talks are stories of people who are blazing trails of possibility, and effectively giving me permission to do my own risking and creating and (hopefully great) stuff.

The film Shadowlands gave CS Lewis the phrase: “we read to know we are not alone”. I think it’s true. I also think that deep down we watch TED talks to know we are not alone.

Clare Bryden, TEDxExeter Storyteller

Manwar Ali on TED.com

The idea of jihad has been hijacked, perverted and turned into terrorism by fascistic Islamists says Manwar Ali. His TEDxExeter talk “Inside the mind of a former radical jihadist” from April this year has just been selected to feature on TED.com – an honour that only a tiny proportion of TEDx talks achieve (five of them now from TEDxExeter). Needless to say we are all excited and proud that Manwar’s brave and moving talk will reach a global audience. It has already been watched by nearly 7,000 people since it went online in May and now it will reach millions more.

Manwar Ali, who is also known as Abu Muntasir, has more than 30 years experience teaching Islam and is one of the few scholars in the UK who has been directly involved in jihad. He was a committed pioneer of jihadism in the UK who fought in Afghanistan, Kashmir and Burma.

“For a long time, I lived for death,” says Manwar Ali, a former radical jihadist who participated in violent, armed campaigns in the Middle East and Asia in the 1980s. In this moving talk, he reflects on his experience with radicalisation and makes a powerful, direct appeal to anyone drawn to Islamist groups claiming that violence and brutality are noble and virtuous: let go of anger and hatred, he says, and instead cultivate your heart to see goodness, beauty and truth in others.

Manwar Ali also says: “I thought violent Jihad was noble, chivalrous, and the best way to help. At a time when so many of our young people are at risk of radicalisation by groups like IS, AQ and others, when those groups are claiming that their horrific violence and brutality are true jihad – I want to say – their idea of jihad is wrong. Totally wrong. As was mine, then.”

He believes that “there are no circumstances on earth today in which violent jihad is permissible, because it will lead to greater harm”.

“I am absolutely delighted that my talk has been chosen for TED.com,” says Manwar Ali. “I am forever grateful to everyone responsible for making this happen. I am thrilled that a much wider audience will benefit from my humble admissions.

“It is vital for us to understand the poison of the ideology of Islamism which is necessarily supremacist and do our best to protect and cure humanity from its pernicious effects on the hearts for peace, compassion and understanding. For it to be hosted on TED.com is simply a dream come true.”

TEDxExeter organiser and licensee Claire Kennedy adds: “At a time when stories of young people being recruited to violent jihad overseas are regularly in the headlines, this talk is very timely. We are delighted that Manwar’s wise and thought-provoking words will reach a global audience.”

Manwar Ali is chief executive of Muslim educational charity JIMAS. He is also a specialist interventions provider for the Home Office’s Office of Security and Counter Terrorism working with people who are at risk of radicalisation and those convicted of terrorism. He is chaplain for University Campus Suffolk, Suffolk New College, and the Ipswich Hospital; a member of the local scrutiny & involvement panel for the Crown Prosecution Service in East England; a member of the police crime panel for the Suffolk Police & Crime Commissioner; and a member of the Suffolk Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education.

Five go to the voting booth

Clare Bryden has been the TEDxExeter Storyteller since the beginning, mainly blogging articles inspired by each year’s theme, and then live-blogging from the back of the theatre during the event itself. Now she’s starting a new series of things that interest her which have a TED or TEDx angle. These might be her responses to watching TED and TEDx talks, or interesting things that TED and TEDx talks could shed some light on…

First up, Brexit and young people. This is a reworking of a post on Clare’s own blog, where you can also find the data behind the graphs.

 

In the fall-out from the EU Referendum, one particular graph has been much-shown and commented upon. It’s the graph of how three-quarters of young people polled said they would vote Remain, and used as evidence for how they have been sold out by older people voting Leave.

EURef-Voting

 

But the graph doesn’t necessarily show the whole story. It doesn’t account for turnout, and Sky’s final poll says only about a third of people aged 18-24 may have voted.

EURef-Turnout

If that was the case, the votes for Remain as a percentage of eligible voters could actually have been the lowest in the 18-24 age group.

EURef-Adjusted

Now, polls in advance of votes don’t always give an accurate picture. In general elections, the exit polls are generally much closer to the eventual outcome. But in yet another missed opportunity, there were no exit polls at the Referendum, the argument being that they could only usefully be compared to previous votes. And yet surely they would have given us much better information about who was voting and why?

Interestingly, this LSE survey of the ‘inside mind of the voter’ suggests a MUCH higher turnout among young people: “Young people cared and voted in very large numbers. We found turnout was very close to the national average, and much higher than in general and local elections. After correcting for over-reporting [people always say they vote more than they do], we found that the likely turnout of 18- to 24-year-olds was 70% – just 2.5% below the national average – and 67% for 25- to 29-year-olds.”

Between 1964 and 2010, turnout in general elections among young people was much lower than the national average. In his talk at TEDxHousesofParliament in 2014, Rick Edwards asked why, and suggested five solutions to get more young people to vote: introduce online voting; make it compulsory for first-time voters to vote; add a ‘none of the above’ option; improve information about parties’ policy positions; celebrate young people who have stood for and won office as role models.

What happened in the 2015 General Election? Well, although polls of voting intention suggested turnout among young people was as low as in the past, as with the Referendum, subsequent study indicates it may well have been much higher and close to the national average.

We can’t get complacent, though, and ideas like Rick Edwards’ need to be explored. The LSE survey also suggests that young people were extremely engaged in the Referendum, and reacted very strongly to the result. So it could boost political engagement and turnout. But equally it could further discourage young people if they feel their vote doesn’t make a difference or their voices are not heard.

Clare Bryden, TEDxExeter Storyteller