Last week I had the opportunity to conduct a workshop with the 2013 Tech Award laureates. The Tech Awards is an international program that honors innovators from around the world who are applying technology to benefit humanity. Technologies are selected based on their impact in four main categories; environment, education, economic development and health. “They are the best of the best serving the poorest of the poor,” Father Michael Engh recited at the awards gala.
Spending just a short period of time with these passionate entrepreneurs was a sharp reminder of the power and responsibility all enterprising technologists shoulder.
While most of us will not have the opportunity to pioneer initiatives that win global technology awards or change the world, we each have the ability to make a difference at a global scale by impacting our world around us. Here are three memorable moments from the Tech awards to help you continue impacting your world to make a difference.
1. Contribute to a tipping point.
Wecyclers is a company fueling the grassroots recycling effort to push Africa past its recycling tipping point. They report that “By some estimates only 10% of solid waste in Africa is collected”. It is hard for many of us to imagine such a low recycling adoption rate. Having grown up in the United States during the 1970s, I remember a time when everything went in “one can” or to a big city dump. It was not until the early 1970s when the first recycling mill was built and the first city Woodbury, NJ mandated recycling. An entire 60s generation of young passionate people committed their energy toward creating the environmental movement, but it wasn’t until years later that the cause reached its tipping point. These millions of activists didn’t directly profit from the industry, but each of their individual efforts contributed to the tipping point.
Be aware of the potential long-term horizon of causes and initiative that consume your precious time, but focus your passion on the belief that you can be a contributor to an historic tipping point.
2. Honor family and create legacies.
Each of the award winners were able to share short stories during their ninety second acceptance speech in front of thousands attending the gala. Given only a short window of time to speak, the laureates were able to make poignant statements about their cause, and thank key contributors to success. The moments most inspiring me were when each laureate took time to thank certain family members for support, inspiration and dedication. Sometimes the greatest form of passion can come from your own responsibility to your family and the legacy you leave.
Whether you are setting-out to impact a small project, a large business, a charitable cause, or the world’s biggest problems, always ground and inspire yourself with the responsibility you have to your family and the legacy you leave.
3. Use your “cool factor” to inspire action.
At The Tech Awards gala, the theme was water. Beautiful photography captured the many colors and forms of water, one of the most basic human needs, but sometimes difficult to source. Benjamin Cohen of the company Tohl is working to create innovative fluid transport infrastructure solutions. At face value, fluid transport is not going to make most people jump out of their seats screaming “how cool”. Once you’ve had a chance to watch the video of this simple yet complex technology, you will get excited about mobile infrastructure. Tohls’ video shows their helicopter flying through the air while towing a gigantic spool of plastic pipeline. As the helicopter flies over steep mountains and unruly terrain, the pipeline gently unrolls landing on the ground, leaving nature unharmed. Quickly and efficiently a pipeline of running water is delivered to a remote village struck by a disaster, or firefighters in steep terrain to save a small town from a deadly wildfire.
The Tohl video is effective because it keeps product details basic, but manages to showcase a “cool factor” to inspire viewers. In today’s connected and visual world, never overlook or underestimate an audience’s thirst for the “cool factor”. You need to communicate the essentials of a program, but have your finger on the pulse of what storytelling will inspire people into action.
Finding ways to impact the world around you should be easy when they are part of the activities in which you already believe in. Contributing to a tipping point, creating a legacy and using your cool factor are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to taking what is uniquely important to you to make a difference in the world.