America’s Greatest Minds Share Life-Changing Ideas at 4th Annual UP Experience

America’s greatest minds will share life-changing ideas at fourth annual UP Experience

By Joel Luks
10.24.11 | 10:43 am

As Daniel H. Pink explains in his New York Times bestselling book, A Whole New Mind, conceptual age thinking juxtaposes elements of creativity, innovation and design onto everyday necessities. No longer is society satisfied with goods and services that just fulfill our wants and needs, we consistently seek experiences that are associated with right-brain processes that tease our sense of meaning, play, intuition and empathy.

The conceptual age is the era of ideas. And the sharing of such ideas is exactly what happens at events like The UP Experience.

Pink is one of the 16 speakers at the fourth UP, set for Thursday at the Stafford Centre, during which he will discuss how intrinsic and extrinsic motivation shapes performance.

“For UP, it’s not enough to be an amazing author, doctor or writer. Guest speakers have to be able to deliver their message in such a fashion that it affects change, thought and action.”

Filling the forum with curious individuals, the event is a large think tank that aims to change the way attendees view everyday, personal, community, national and international issues.

The UP Experience is Houston’s homegrown response to global movements like TED(meaning Technology, Entertaining, Design) and PechaKucha during which “ideas worth spreading” are shared in a series of short-format lecture-style presentations. For guest lecturers at UP — unique experiences from unique people — 20 minutes is all they have to discuss their work and passion.

“As I traveled listening to different speakers, it was their first 20 passionate minutes that meant more to the listening audience than the full hour-long or so presentation,” Sheryl W. Rapp, co-founder of The UP Experience, tells CultureMap.

The day-long conference is the brainchild of Rapp and her husband, Ernie, who saw a need in Houston for a gathering that would leave attendees intellectually charged and inspired.

“This is a different type of event,” she notes. “During many other lecture conferences, guests don’t have access to interact, make connections and begin conversations with the speakers themselves. At UP, part of the format includes breakout Q&A sessions where guests can interact freely with featured experts.”

The day is divided into four sessions.

Technology and Science

During “Technology and Science,” Katie Linendoll, known as the “Chic Geek” and as a regular contributor on CBS’ The Early Show, CNN and co-host of A&E’s We Mean Business, the discussion will turn to technology — like robotics  —that’s influencing global issues and how that technology seeps into pop culture and media.

Having built her first computer from scratch at age 14, Linendoll has an uncanny communication style that deciphers complicated phenomenons into easy to digest recognizable patterns.

Social and Global Issues

“Social and Global Issues” includes a talk by Joshua Cooper Ramo, former foreign editor at Time Magazine, that explores how the rise of China’s middle class will influence international economies. Marc Freedman will address the aging of 10,000 baby boomers and his process for marrying their technical expertise with nonprofits seeking such volunteers.

What started as a simple YouTube video that Salman Khan made to help his cousin Nadia with arithmetic morphed into an educational movement with a life of its own, one which inspired personalities like Bill Gates to invest millions. Khan will speak about his Khan Academy, an initiative to combat the worldwide concern of access to effective educational strategies.

Business and Leadership

In addition to Pink, “Business and Leadership” welcomes local green savant Laura Spanjian. Alison Levine —one of a handful of women to have completed the Explorer’s Grand Slam, which includes reaching both Poles and climbing atop the highest mountains of each of the seven continents including Everest and Mount McKinley, Vinson Massif in Antartica and Elbrus in Europe — ties her experience as a risk-taking adventurer to her career in Wall Street.

Mind and Body

By popular request, “Mind and Body” brings back University of Houston qualitative research professor Brené Brown, whose 2009 appearance at UP on shame and vulnerability — followed by her 2010 TEDxHouston talk — rendered her a household name in this knowledge-seeking community.

“As part of curating UP, we surveyed the audience members to learn what topics are timely and of interest,” Rapp says. “This year, I traveled all over the country to find an expert on memory that could also speak passionately, concisely and convincingly on the subject.

“For UP, it’s not enough to be an amazing author, doctor or writer. Guest speakers have to be able to deliver their message in such a fashion that it affects change, thought and action.”

That was Ron White, winner of the USA Memory Championship in 2009 and 2010 and known to be able to memorize a shuffled deck of cards in 27 seconds, who will share skills, tool and strategies for better cognitive retention.

Other notable experts include Dr. David Eagleman, Benjamin Zander, chef Jeff Henderson and Dr. Athony Atala.

“The process of putting together UP has changed my whole family including my children,” Rapp explains.

Cody, her son, now leads the Junior UP Experience which happens on the same day in a room just down the hall from Stafford Center’s main theater. Four hundred high school students from 14 public, private and charter schools will learn from five UP Experience presenters.