Xenia Kingsley

Many Hands: TEDxBrighton

Posted on 10th November 2014 by Xenia Kingsley

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This Halloween, I had my first experience of attending a TEDx event. If you’ve not heard about TEDx before, it is an independent series of self-organised events, licensed by TED to encapsulate the spirit of ‘ideas worth spreading’ on a local level.

This year, the theme of TEDxBrighton was ‘Many Hands’, encompassing ideas around collaboration, communication, community and creativity. In addition to the vast array of speakers, which included: crime writer Peter James, entrepreneur Sam Roddick, documentary maker Fox Fisher and ‘frog collaborator’ (yes, you read that right) Agent Amphibian – also known as CiCi Blumstein, there were also a number of inventors and creators showing off their wares during the breaks. During the morning break I got to fulfill a lifetime ambition cultivated by decades of sci-fi consumption to play a virtual reality game (Oculus Rift is awesome!) So, if you fancy getting me a Christmas present

The day was split into four sessions around the Many Hands theme: Reaching Out, Drawn Together, The Makers and Going Beyond. Each had its standout moments but for me, the session that has had the longest lasting impact came in the afternoon with The Makers.

Though the presenters were talking about the many wonderful things they made with their hands – surf boards, spoons, knives, bikes, guitars – their advice about the creative process felt incredibly pertinent to the things we make in our businesses: ideas.

Here are some of my key takeaways from that session.

Be generous with your expertise

Otter Surfboards founder, James Otter, wanted a light yet sturdy surfboard with a minimal environmental impact so took matters into his own hands. He crafts wooden surfboards in his workshop in Cornwall. Once word started to spread about his boards, James began receiving requests from people interested in learning how to make their own.

At first, James wasn’t sure how he felt about sharing the knowledge he’d spent so long to build up but he took a shot and invited his first tutee into the workshop.

It can seem counterintuitive to give your IP away, particularly in what we call a knowledge economy, but in doing so you prove your expertise and give yourself a right to compete in the marketplace.

Never compromise

Ben Edmonds started making kitchen knives in his home workshop after being inspired by Youtube videos. A former graphic designer with an obsession for making things, Ben believes if you need something you should ask yourself, “couldn’t I make it?”

His passion for crafting knives has evolved into a business called Blok Knives: an antidote to mass production and the ‘disposable world’.

Ben believes in British craftsmanship and is proud to use the finest steel, wood and pins in his knives. But as the popularity of Blok Knives has grown, so has the waiting list, which currently stands at 18 months. Customers often ask Ben why it takes so long. His response? He’s not willing to compromise on quality. It takes as long as it takes.

And while of course deadlines are vital in business – it’s an important sentiment to stay true to. Be realistic with yourself and your customers about how long it takes to deliver something that you can be proud of.

Take joy in the process

EJ Osborne of Hatchet + Bear wanted to simplify her life so she turned, as you do, to spoons. EJ hand carves items from foraged local wood and also teaches people how to carve spoons on one-day courses.

For many who sign up for the course, the day begins with great expectations of symmetrical, perfectly smooth spoons. But, EJ explains, the anticipation of the outcome is soon eclipsed as participants discover the joy of the process – some people get so carried away with whittling that soon there’s little spoon left! She calls this ‘the toothpick theory’. At the end of the day, people leave the workshop with beautiful, wonky spoons and a sense of fulfillment.

Of course, the end product is important, whether it’s a spoon or a thought leadership project, but so is the process. Enjoy what you’re doing and allow yourself to get carried away with it. The end result might be a pleasant surprise.

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