Questions for TEDx Detroit

We’ll be attending TEDx Detroit on October 21st. Although we’ll certainly be open and ready to listen first, we thought we’d be prepared with a few questions for the presenters who are scheduled to be there.

Here are some initial formulations. If you’d like to help frame our questions, or if you’d like to ask your own, note them in the comments!


Richard B. Sheridan
President, CEO and co-founder of Menlo Innovations

In your company website, you speak of “creative destruction” as a core value. In a recent post on the Harvard Business School blogs site, Umair Haque posed some challenges to venture capitalists and the concept of creative destruction, arguing that risk aversion made a mirror image of Wall Street and Sand Hill Road – Wall Street underinvested in destruction and Sand Hill underinvested in creation.

Underinvesting in creation seems to be at the core of Detroit’s problems, both by the auto companies and their suppliers, and perhaps as well by outsiders who might otherwise have been expected to be disruptive “angel interveners.” Haque pointed to Detroit’s problems, saying, “Here’s how pervasive the venture economy’s failure is: Detroit’s dying – but we don’t have a better auto industry, let alone better energy to power it.”

From where you sit, is the challenge more about finding the resources to develop new ideas, or getting the invitation from clients to get creative?


Dan Izzo
Training Leader at Bizdom U

Dan, your organization is an interesting component of Quicken Loans, and we look forward to its HQ move into downtown Detroit, and encourage continuing consideration of the broader urban development ideas your team had on its way to this decision.

In your Blunt on Business blog you recently considered the question of mandatory course work for entrepreneurs, and concluded that self-motivation is critical. “Nothing mandatory, everything expected” was your conclusion. In other places, however, the nature of business education is being challenged and rethought. There is a great concern about integrity, transparency, global cultural awareness, and the development and contribution of real value.

Bizdom U commits to the development of Detroit-based entrepreneurs who will not follow traditional business classroom education. When the leading business schools are apparently developing mandatory curricula in response to scandals and collapses, how will your students develop a social, moral and sustainable values mix in self-guided education?


Fabienne Münch
Director of Ideation Office at Herman Miller

Fabienne, your mission is to “create new contexts for people to change and thrive.” Although Herman Miller has historically, and continues, to innovate in the design of innovative products and environments in the world of work, there certainly has not been much adoption of change in the American workspace and, certainly, not much is thriving right now.

When we know that a different kind of environment is such a strong factor in nurturing the culture and performance of companies, why have we been so unsuccessful in motivating change? And how can this agenda be advanced in the atmosphere of a global economic collapse? Perhaps more pointedly, what’s missing in the offices of our locally headquartered global organizations who, apparently, are the biggest losers in the new economy?


Chazz Miller
Founder and Muralist at Public Art Workz

Chazz, your mission is “to revitalize Northwest Detroit into a world class Public Art Showcase using Murals as the catalyst for change.”

The graffiti murals in the Dequindre Cut have been lauded as “fostering and promoting an essential link between contemporary art and contemporary society.” In many cases, however, graffiti is seen as vandalism and presents a tremendous cost to owners of buildings and the public authorities and private companies who manage transportation systems, for example. Malcolm Gladwell has also made a clear linkage between the presence graffiti and the presence of urban crime.

I get the sense that the art that you promote is nothing like graffiti. Could you comment, then, on the influence that organizations like the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, the College for Creative Studies, the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit (and Mocad) may, with their sponsorship of graffiti art, have on the kids you are trying to develop?


Terry Barclay
President and Chief Executive Officer of Inforum Michigan

Terry, first of all, thanks for sustaining such a great organization in our region. I have had the opportunity to attend a couple of your programs and find them to be among the best economic forums I’ve attended.

You will be talking about “how women are changing the world.” It would be great to hear how women in Detroit are changing the world, and hope you will tell us some good stories. In this bastion of industrial production, it’s be safe to assume that opportunities for women have not been particularly strong compared to other regions in the country, and to also assume that the collapse of the industrial economy here does not improve that condition at all. Is this true, or do you see that the yearning for a transformation to a new economy here may, in fact, present better opportunities for women?


Dawn White
Co-founder and President of Accio Energy

Dawn, it will be great to hear about the unique technology at the heart of your wind energy system (or will even we, at TEDx Detroit, have to wait until late 2010 for you to unveil your secret?).

But my question is in another direction. You are a serial innovator and a great model for the transformation of the region not only from autos to other manufactured systems, and from conventional utility to new energy, but also from an older typology of engineering and labor. It appears that the sustainability of our region is dependent on new skills drawn from other places but also derived from a more local industrial craft base. It also appears that the New Economy Initiative has ambitious and exemplary goals along this line. Are you a member of the initiative, and can you comment on what you believe its success and influence will be?


Lee Thomas
Anchor/Entertainment Reporter on FOX Detroit and Author of Turning White

Lee, I am sure we will all be very interested in hearing your compelling personal story, especially in light of the attention and misunderstanding that Michael Jackson drew.

But excuse me for stepping to the side for a moment to suggest that I am very surprised to see the TED brand and the FOX brand in the same forum. Could you clarify for us?



Paul Schutt
CO-CEO of Issue Media Group

Hi, Paul. And simply, thank you very much for the online publications you have brought to our area. I think they are a super model for what might otherwise have been the venue for print media, and are great vehicles for promoting what is happening in the region.

I expect you may address certain issues and opportunities about the transformation of media, and, since your publications are about growth and investment, you’ll have comments about how that is best promoted. You do, however, operate in some of the more innovative, attractive and business-friendly cities on the continent. You must have some observations about the cultural and economic differences between Detroit and those other cities. How about commenting on the content differentials between your publications and offer some insights on what they might indicate about the future for Detroit’s growth and opportunities to attract investment in a tough and competitively restoring economy?


Pj Jacokes
Producer/Lead Instructor at Go Comedy! Improv Theater & GoU: The Improv Academy

Pj, although I always enjoy a good laugh, I’ve never found myself in a comedy club. What am I missing?


Derek Mehraban

Instructor of MSU’s New Media Drivers License program and CEO of Ingenex Digital Marketing.

Derek, this program presents you as “passionate about helping companies and individuals embrace digital technology.”

But holy smokes, Derek!!! Here we are driving down the road – newly defensive to try to avoid the follies of inattentive cell phone talkers and in-another-world texting drivers – and yet you’ve branded your program as a “new media drivers license program”??!? And, sheesh! – your MSU web site advises students to “Get your license to drive new media.”

Well, I guess I needn’t go any further…you know the question!


Matt Dugener

COO/CSO of Enliven Software

Matt, your blog promotes the move of power companies to paperless systems as a “green” move. I assume there may be a number of challengers to this equation who believe that saving trees in many cases only fuels the demand for more power and pollution.

Your company is a leader in moving accounting and other corporate operations to paperless systems. Do you have a process to evaluate a company’s shift in energy demand throughout the supply chain in order to confidently promote these systems as “green” systems?


Dr. Gary Gabel

Founder of Prism Learning Solution and author of Personal Takeover

Dr. Gabel, Matt Crawford recently spoke to an audience at the College for Creative Studies here. Matt, as you may know, is author of the best selling book, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work. He does not have good things to say about white collar culture and is certainly negative on the goals and values of American corporate management. I expect he’d be uniquely cynical, as he retreats into the domain of his motorcycle repair shop, of your work and the promise to orient individuals into high performance teams.

Are you familiar with Crawford’s work, and what might you say to him about his disaffection with corporate culture and managerial performance? In this regional domain of blue collar work, how do you tune your message to bring the disaffected back into the workforce and make them optimistic about their ability to grow and contribute?

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