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The TEDx Example: How Sharing Your Shine can be a Competitive Advantage

Time for your company to scrap secrecy, and get sharing. Bon Johannsen describes how TEDx gained competitive advantage through doing just this. “Keep your cards close to your chest.” You’ve heard the adage before, and it’s just as applicable…
by Caitlin Schiller | Feb 25 2015

“Keep your cards close to your chest.” You’ve heard the adage before, and it’s just as applicable to the world of business as it is to high-stakes poker tournaments. A prime example is Coca-Cola, who keeps the tightest of locks on its feted original formula. Since time immemorial, companies have strived to protect their assets at all costs, fearful that the slightest reveal could damage their business. But here’s a question: in an age of high-transparency and social media that bares it all, isn’t it high time to show that hand?

There is increasing circumstantial evidence to suggest that, in a corporate sense, keeping things tightly under wraps is not always top-notch tactically. Sharing with others and forming new partnerships can make your business more successful, and profitable – and guess what? You might also be contributing to making the world a better place!

In his book The Reciprocity Advantage, Bob Johansen describes with a single potent example how everybody wins through sharing. It’s time to meet TED.


Putting the x in TEDx 

When TED began, it was a far different beast to what it is today. Established by architect Richard Wurman in the 80s, it was intended to be the worlds most elite conference themed around Technology, Entertainment and Design. And elite it was – getting your hands on a ticket to the shebang was a tricky business, and left a hefty hole in the wallet to boot.

Zoom forward to the modern-day, and Johannsen notes in The Reciprocity Advantage that there’s a different TED we speak of. 2001 saw Chris Anderson take over the reigns, and a big shakeup began. Talks were published online for free, but more importantly he wanted to share the brand, logo, and high production values with anybody who wanted to host their own conference. Just as long as they added an x at the end.

And it turns out that that little x gave TED an undefinable X factor. The benefits really were manifold. The TEDx conferences often shone a light on fantastic speakers who then graduated to be TED greats. And as for the original – they’re more popular than ever. In this case, sharing was key to helping TED achieve a competitive advantage, in the process also offering millions the opportunity to view the talks online, free of charge.

The lesson here? Sharing, whether in the form of a partnership or adjusting your business model, can benefit everybody, both your company and the wider world – just like your mother always told you.

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