03/03/2012 07:16 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

TED -- An Entreprenuer's Sandbox

There is no doubt that the TED conference is remarkable place. But the simple fact is -- most of the people who are on the stage, or in the audience are people who've built remarkable things. Scientists, artists, authors -- the top of their field.


So -- the first time that I went to TED I wondered, what was an entrepreneur doing in a room of accomplished individuals, and perhaps most importantly what would I be able to gain from being there. As it turned out -- a lot. I'm going back this week for what will be my seventh year... and I've changed as a creator and builder during that time. Some of that change I credit to my experience at TED.

Let me explain.

As an entrepreneur you spend much of your time building your business in your field. You work with customers, partners, team members and thought leaders. But the path forward is narrow, and the speed fast. There's not much time for window shopping.

TED changes that in an instant. Because at TED, you find that there are people as committed as you, as passionate, as driven, but in fields that you've had little exposure to. The impact is intoxicating. To see the connection between bio-science and the web, or between grand wall sized social art projects and social media changes your perspective. It both re-charges your batteries and opens your eyes.

To watch Benjamin Zander on stage turn music in to a massive communal experience is to understand the magic of orchestral performance. I've always loved music, but after being in the room with Zander I listen with a whole new kind of ear. Or to hear the story of Jill Bolte Taylof talk about the experience of a neuroscientist as she studied herself having a stroke forever opens my eyes to the complexity and power of the human brain. Finally, to hear Deb Roy talk about recording his young child's discovery of language -- and how he's using this technology to now explore and understand social media changed my perception of science and sociology.

Which is to say -- TED is rocket fuel for the entrepreneurial mind. It challenges pre-conceived notions. It connects the dots between art and science. And most importantly it puts a human face on the practice of discovery and exploration. We are -- all of us -- on a journey to build things. Some of the things are physical, some are creative, some or purely theoretical. But entrepreneurs are explores and inventors.

So this year -- as I head to spend a week in Long Beach, I bring with me a bag of gifts and questions. My gifts are things I've learned about video, history, accelerated knowledge, and the emergence of curation as an exciting and important change in the way that content creators can embrace and harness the noisy web. My questions are around the changes in how big companies partner with technology innovators around intellectual property and patents.

But the biggest thing I will bring to TED this year -- as in years past -- is hungry curiosity. I want to embrace the serendipity that can happen when you arrive at a space full of ideas and with an open mind.

The extraordinary thing about TED is that while being there is great, you can as an entrepreneur get the burst of energy and ideas without leaving your home or office. All you need is the curiosity we all bring to our entrepreneurial enterprises and a web browser. TED shares the spirt, and the talks, free on line.

To get you started -- here are three links to amazing talks that can spark innovation. Explore and enjoy -- and please share your favorite TED talks in the comments below.