About TED » TED Talks Partners » Johnnie Walker Ideas Project

Johnnie Walker originated in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland. The vision and ambition of the Walker family has inspired progress and great achievements for almost two centuries.


At TEDActive 2012, Johnnie Walker sponsored the TEDActive Progressive Ideas Project, harnessing the energy, optimism and talent of the TEDActive community to create innovative answers to big questions. Working with the TED team, Johnnie Walker focused the energy of thinkers and doers on answering this question: How can we bring a great idea to scale?

The process

We jumpstarted the brainstorm online, creating a TEDActive Progressive Ideas Facebook Group as a conversation platform and promoting the discussion with this incredible video. On-site at Palm Springs, the excitement around the Projects was infectious. The week began with an immersive pre-conference Experience and an idea-sharing Builder's Breakfast, opening the question up to the community at a Picnic Lunch on Tuesday. As ideas coalesced around the Project Wall, the community went out to mingle and celebrate on Wednesday night at three breathtakingly scenic Project House Parties. On Thursday, after final meetings, the entire community raised a glass to the ideas that emerged as the lead facilitators delivered short, inspiring talks during the Project Toasts.


The blogs, thoughts and the story of the Progressive Ideas Project were all recorded on a dedicated page on TED.com. The Project was manned by a facilitator to encourage conversation, a storyteller to capture and represent ideas and an amplifier to take those ideas to the wider community.

The conversation online

  • 3 weeks
  • 276 members
  • 509 posts, comments and likes

Over two weeks leading up to the TEDActive conference, people joined the Facebook group to share their ideas and spark discussion. People shared posts and photos about interesting programs in their communities, related articles, videos and more.

Here are a few of the posts we loved (go to the Facebook Group to read them all):

As I try to bring ideas to life outside of institutional frameworks, the thing I've found most useful is to try to create organising frameworks and methodologies around non-institutional initiatives. Institutions have an inherent bias-to-action that individual actors don't always demonstrate. -- Scott Cooper

If you are passionate enough about an idea, I think you should ACT on it...no matter how you scale it, your belief in it will result in a spiral effect starting with those who adopt it. -- Lolita Wagih Mansour

I love the idea of "keep walking" and how it supports the notion that great ideas have a path and that it takes many steps and innovations for an idea to be truly successful. -- Sarah Lurie McMains

The conversation on-site

The Progressive Ideas Project began their journey at Palm Springs by asking: What are the barriers to scaling an idea? What does scale mean to you? How big is too big? The group went on to identify the basics for bringing an idea to scale: a first step; mentors; a support system; momentum; measurable results and marketing.

The primary question from these first discussions emerged as: How open or closed should you be as you evolve? Participants were divided between the powerful tool of collaboration versus protecting your ideas and technology. As a result, two separate concepts of scale were identified -- scale could mean growth for monetization, or it could be focused on spreading ideas (without direct regard for financial compensation).


At the Picnic Lunch, the conversation was informed by Susan Cain's talk on the power of introverts. People began talking about how introverts and extroverts might scale ideas differently, about how individuals operate on projects, as opposed to collective groups, musing on contemplation versus action and Steve Jobs versus Google. They concluded that neither one is superior, and both should be considered.

Through all the discussions one key insight emerged: To scale an idea, let go and relinquish some control so others can participate in helping it grow.


Insights and ideas

These are some of the most popular ideas and insights we discovered during this process. We hope that you find these as stimulating and exciting as the TEDActive community did:

  • To help share knowledge, start-ups could develop data-sharing platforms, allowing others to learn from critical insights and mistakes.

  • Mentor and advisor networks can be huge helps for sharing advice, new innovations and critical introductions. Create a formal network of advisors for start-ups, organized by the different stages an idea goes through in order to scale.
  • Creating an advisory board is often the first step to connecting with the mentors needed to grow an idea.


  • Share resource libraries and branding assets, as these are often barriers to scale for individuals with interesting ideas.

  • Prototype a "Hot or Not" styled social platform to crowdsource advice and understand how the idea might be received.


Watching the TEDActive community grow and think continues to be a thrilling journey, as over 600 attendees flock from all corners of the Earth to be a part of this community and these conversations. The TEDActive Projects continue to be a celebration of ideas, imagination, innovation and inspiration.

We hope that you will continue to join us on this intellectual adventure and many more in the future!