Richard Saul Wurman back at TED

Posted by: Helen Walters on February 29, 2008

Cathartic moment on stage as TED’s originator, the larger-than-life Richard (Ricky) Saul Wurman took to the stage to make peace with current curator, Chris Anderson, who bought the conference off him. Their relationship in the ensuing years has by all accounts been acrimonious, so tension amongst TED veterans (and there are many) was high. Undercut when Wurman promptly burst into tears after a standing ovation.

Wurman’s truly a character (I hung out with him a little while later, and he was greeted and hugged by a whole host of the great and the good — he really inspires strong emotions, this one). Anyway, his words are better than mine, so here are some of the things he said on stage:

On tears: “I cry a lot. But it’s ok, it doesn’t embarrass me. It might embarrass you, but it doesn’t embarrass me.”

On the genesis of TED: “It was my party. I didn’t give a shit about the audience, I wanted to have a wonderful event. I wanted to learn. I had people I wanted to hear from… I wasn’t trying to extend it to society at all. I thought the event was the event.”

On Anderson. “When Chris started calling himself the curator I didn’t know what the f*&k that meant. I thought that was pretentious. But in the past few days I’ve understood. I’m not the creator of TED, I’m a curator too… It’s not my dinner party, it has transformed.

On post-Wurman TED: “This is to be interested in everything and see some things you are more interested in than others: To see those connections and those patterns. I never had a fashion person; that wasn’t interesting to me. Isaac [[Mizrahi, who spoke right before Wurman went on stage]] was terrific. He really didn’t talk about fashion and I really enjoyed his talk… In a charming way, it expanded our thoughts about what you can be interested in.

On the original TED philosophy: “I wanted a conference I wanted to be at. All of the talks should be good and the bad ones not that long.”

Then he went on to chat briefly about his new venture: 192021, which looks at the 19 cities in the world with 20 million people in the 21st century. We’ll be writing a lot more about that in the ensuing months, but suffice it to say it’s a fascinating and necessary project.

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What comes next? The BusinessWeek Innovation and Design team of Michael Arndt and Helen Walters chronicle new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.

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