How does one change the world?

Last Call

What happens if you fill a room with highly educated and intellectually curious people? Does the combined IQ coefficient cancel itself out or does it elevate the discussions to a higher level?

After attending three days packed with presentations, storytelling and conversations, to me the answer is clear: It seems to lift everybody up a notch. Suddenly I felt smarter, more knowledgeable, more inspired and more empowered than before I entered the room.

The Hilton Head Institute held their second annual forum since it was founded by a handful of visionaries and early adapters. The event offered “brain candy” of the highest quality. Usually one would have to travel to N.Y.C or Aspen in order to get the same amount of intellectual input, but all a local attendee had to do is to convene at the Westin, sit down, listen and participate.


  • Best selling author Douglas Rushkoff (“Present Shock”) made me realize that technology is not serving us, but we are serving technology (or its masters). It maybe hard to swallow when he convincingly argues that the smart phone in our hands is not the product but rather we “humans” (our behavior pattern that is) are the product and that machines are becoming so smart that they not only predict the outcome but are actively manipulating our future actions…
  • Benjamin Zander, world-renowned conductor of the Boston Philharmonics and author of “The Art of Possibility” literally lifted the audience of their seats and gave us a live demonstration of the power of positivism.
  • NBC’s host of “Meet the Press”, Chuck Todd gave a personal insight into Washington’s political process leaving me to conclude that we can’t wait for big policy decisions from the government, but that it is up to us citizens to take action.
  • Author/researcher Paul Tough, (“How Children Succeed”) concluded that there is more to advancing in life that achieving a high test score and that character traits such as resilience, curiosity, courage, optimism and social intelligence are just as important; while warning that over-protected kids might not experience enough adversity to develop some of these survival instincts.
  • Nationally recognized health care expert Mark Smith, MD brought to light how health care has and will change for the better in the USA, by modernizing its antiquated processes (with the help of technology) to the same level other industries have adopted.
  • Dr. Jim Wagner, president of Emory University and board member of the Hilton Head Institute, made a clear case of why the future of education needs to include the liberal arts: it develops the critical thinking and inquisitive minds necessary to deal with an ever-changing global landscape.
  • If one needed proof that the will of a single person can transform the world, it would have been hard to pick better ‘real life’ champions than George McDonald, who decided that homeless people need “a hand up” not a “hand me down” and has proven it for 30 years in the streets of N.Y.C and Bill Strickland which has set an example in Pittsburgh of how a world class vocational school will transform “at risk youth” into productive citizens and is multiplying his concept around the nation.

Hilton-Head-InstituteSo how does one change the world? I came away convinced that most big changes started with a simple courageous conversation. Regardless if the conversation of a philosopher, artist, entrepreneur or scientist started with oneself before the idea was presented to an inner circle and offered up for debate, or if it gets crowd sourced via the Internet and takes on an accelerated path. A conversation can be the start of an idea worth spreading and the ideological basis for actions that will follow.

The event was a success on all levels. The significant effort by the team of the Hilton Head Institute is paying dividends by placing our community on the map as a hub for intellectual pursuit. It unquestionably deserves the broad support from all of us. I would like to encourage you to become a member of this organization.

We spend money on keeping our bodies fit and attractive but what could be more beautiful than an enlightened mind?


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