About Jonathan


Jon is a main Board Director of:
- The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, a global leader in plant research, biodiversity and seed-banking. He also Chairs Kew's commercial arm.
- Chairman of UK Parliament's Advisory Council on Public Engagement
- Chairman of Ravensbourne, a fashion, design and communications college
- Beneath the Ink, a US company that makes fabulous publishing tools for e-books
- The Internet Watch Foundation, that works to ensure the removal of child sexual abuse content from the internet
- Wildscreen - an international wildlife film-festival and archive of images and film of endangered species
- The Woodland Trust, which plants and protects trees

(Jon has also been curator and MC of TEDxHousesofParliament)

Jon is Visiting Industrial Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Bristol University, specializing in misconceptions in science and in the uses of technology for learning. He is known widely as a speaker (see ted.com!) on subjects as diverse as seed-banking, the design of compelling experiences, digital strategy for museums and galleries, and why it's hotter in summer than in winter.

He was made CBE by the Her Majesty the Queen in the UK's December 2006 New Year Honours.

Previously, Jon was founder and Director of Culture Online at the UK Government's Department for Culture Media and Sport - a program of projects designed to extend the reach of science and the arts to new audiences using new techniques, and to develop scalable formats and models for public bodies. He recruited and led a creative team of commissioning executives, producers and technologists who won twenty-six major international awards (including 3 BAFTAs, a Webby and the UN World Summit Award) and citation from the UK National Audit Office for management of risk and innovation.

Jon was Managing Director with the US e-business firm Scient and before that spent eighteen years with the BBC. He was Head of Commissioning and Editorial Director for BBC Online, which became under his leadership Europe's most popular content website. In that post he had overall responsibility for services, content and navigation and his team won wide acclaim and a special BAFTA award for the quality of its work.

Jon was Head of Digital Media and Learning Channels for BBC Education, where he led the development of many new services to engage the public. As a BBC Director and Executive Producer, he was responsible for national educational campaigns and many science and business programs - more than fifty prime-time series and documentaries which won many international awards.

Jonathan Drori

twitter: @jondrori



TED Conferences

TED2015, TED2014, TEDGlobal 2013, TEDGlobal 2012, TED2012, TED2011, TED2010, TED2009, TED2007

Areas of Expertise

Corporate Governance, Science documentary-making, Running large online operations, Educational Television, Science Misconceptions, Education Technology, Autism, pollination ecology, Flowers, seed-banking

An idea worth spreading

Using GDP as a proxy measure for human fulfilment is a horrible way to promote a successful society. Above a certain threshold, money doesn't make people happier, and these measures lead Governments and individuals to crazy behaviours that aren't aligned to making societies, (let alone the World) better places.

Instead, we need measures of, for example, human fulfilment, gross national happiness, environmental stability, as well as individual freedom, standard of living etc.

How can we devise a way of getting from where we are now to a way of measuring and rewarding human success that doesn't use money and financial growth as a proxy for health, happiness and meaning?

I'm passionate about

Plant biodiversity, trees, ancient woodland, seeing or experiencing inspirational teaching, sourdough, philanthropy for sustainable difference, children's film-making, science docs, empathic people.

Talk to me about

Anything you really care about! My treasured interactions have been when neither party has known what the other does for a living until after the third or fourth conversation. Think of it as a dance..

People don't know I'm good at

Baking bread.

My TED story

I was so nervous first time I spoke at TED that my tongue kept sticking to the roof of my mouth. Listen for that odd clicking noise... I also remember the surprising number of life-affirmingly saucy emails after the Tricks of Flowers talk. Mainly though, I revel in the glorious characters I've met, those people keen as mustard, (to the point of obsession) and the lifelong friends I've made with fellow insatiably curious travellers who want to make the world a better place. Group-hug anyone?

Comments & conversations

Jonathan Drori
Posted about 3 years ago
Jonathan Drori: The beautiful tricks of flowers
Good question Namit. I think one answer might be that through random mutations some plants here and there might be just a little bit more successful than others in attracting a pollinator. Maybe they have a slightly different pattern, maybe they smell a little bit tastier - who knows? The point is that those plants are more likely to attract pollinators, and therefore just a bit more likely to spread their genes. This means that there'll be more plants with those characteristics. Over many generations of plants, they may have adapted in such a way that they appeal to pollinators, not through any intentionality but just through natural selection. This process might be made a little faster by the fact that the pollinators too are evolving at the same time. The ones that happen to have the best chance of getting to the nectar, or finding the flower in the first place - well, they'll have a better chance of having more progeny, so those characteristics spread. Mimicry complete. No eyes required. I don't know how well I've explained this - I'm a little bleary after a long day. There are lots of good books on the subject though. Thanks for asking the question.
Jonathan Drori
Posted over 3 years ago
Jonathan Drori: The beautiful tricks of flowers
Hi JJ, thanks for the compliment. And you're right. If insects get nectar some of the time, they might still find it worthwhile to go for all of the flowers that seem to be the same, even if they don't get fed every time. But once there are too many 'tricksters' around then the pollinators might not be so keen to pollinate. As you say, there will be evolutionary advantage in being able to sense the presence or absence of nectar more effectively - so the insects might adapt. There may also be evolutionary advantage to the plants becoming less like their mimics, so they might adapt too.
Jonathan Drori
Posted over 3 years ago
Jonathan Drori: The beautiful tricks of flowers
Hi John, I get your point. To be honest, because I gave the talk in London, I forgot here and there that I was speaking to an international audience. In London, evolution is pretty well accepted and therefore the wording I used that implied 'intentionality' would have been seen as, well, faintly humorous. I live and learn. I still think flowers are amazing though...