By Heather M. Higgins, CNN
(CNN) - Disruption is often associated with negativity – it implies trouble and confusion.
But, once in a while, a good shake-up may be just what the world needs. Nearly 400 creative thinkers gathered in Lower Manhattan on a recent Saturday to fuel a dialogue that aims not only to spark innovation but to propel change in the next three to five years.
The early February event was billed as “TEDxBigApple Disruptive Ideas,” and it provided a platform for an impressive roster of 15 change agents. Speakers ranged from physicians to fashionistas, green-tech innovators and urban planners. The group is purely volunteer-driven. It's independently organized but is designed to mimic a TED-like experience. TED is a group dedicated to "ideas worth spreading."
“Our speakers addressed the difference between innovation and invention, and challenged the audience to design a better ride, instead of just a better horse,” said Parneet Gosal, an event organizer and founder of the digital strategy consulting practice Seedwalker.
Here's a look at a few of the recent TEDx speakers, and their ideas on disruption:
One of the presenters, Tom Igoe, a New York-based artist and associate professor at New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program, explores ways to allow digital technologies to sense and respond to a wider range of human physical expressions. Igoe co-founded a revolutionary programming tool to simplify the use of microprocessors like Arduino. It is intended for artists, designers, and hobbyists interested in creating interactive objects.
With the cherry-red TEDx letters illuminated on the stage behind him, Igoe stressed the importance of making objects, but more importantly, how we use them and interact once they are created.
“What our devices do is less important than how they change our relationships to each other,” Igoe told the audience.
“Sometimes you find disruption, and sometimes it finds you,” said Chris Downey, another speaker and San Francisco based architect who lost his sight four years ago. “There is a disruptive idea for you.”
How does one work in a visual field when they are unable to see?
In January 2009, 10 months after going blind, Downey had the opportunity to join the team building the Polytrauma-Blind Rehabilitation Center, an addition to the VA Medical Center in Palo Atlo, Calif.
“For the first time, I saw how blindness brought value to the team, project, and client,” Downey said, “It went from being a disability to a real strength.”
Delight is often defined in visual terms, but Downey is focusing on the non-visual aspects of architecture, like acoustics, touch, and smell, that can be just as pleasurable. Next on the horizon? Reinvent the art museum by creating a multisensory experience.
“The blind are excluded either overtly or passively from art museums,” he said, “How much richer would it be to have that connection?”
Another distinguished speaker included Vijay Govindarajan, known for espousing reverse innovation.
“It is not optional, it is oxygen,” he said while explaining how this is a significant growth opportunity for American corporations going forward.
It is logical to see why a poor man would want a rich man's product, but what about the other way around? Govindarajan says we must create goods like $2,000 cars so the 4 billion people who are considered poor, are brought into the consuming business and not priced out of the market.
"The innovations for the poor will come to transform the lives of the people in the rich countries," he explained.
Govindarajan, the Earl C. Daum 1924 Professor of International Business at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, believes housing is a human right and he is developing the world’s first $300 houses for developing nations.
Nils Gums is co-founder of The Complex Group, an artist management company that engineers viral videos for musicians like Karmin. Using an outside the box approach, Gums successfully took Karmin, a Boston-based pop duo, from YouTube to Madison Square Garden and Saturday Night Live in about six months.
"A purple cow is you finding something unique in yourself, in your artist, or in your brand or company and being able to visually showcase that," said Gums as he spoke about his model for viral success.
Karmin takes chart-topping songs and gives them an entertaining twist. Amy Heidemann, the speed-rapping Katy Perry look-alike's rendition of Chris Brown's, "Look at Me Now," has logged more than 57 million views. Gums combined the video with an accompanying audio asset and merchandise for an instant point of sale. The Berklee College of Music graduate is monetizing talent by redefining artist development in the new media landscape.
Joining Gums was Kavita Parmar, a maverick fashion designer who is shaking up the supply-side prosperity chain. Parmar founded the IOU project to give a face and name to the artisans who weave the fabric of our clothes. In addition to the live speakers, TEDxBigApple ran three TEDTalks videos including John Hunter, Tony Porter, and Clay Shirky.
Each speaker has their own ideas about innovation. For now, revel in the disruption.
“We want you to be participants, not just passive listeners,” said event organizer and acoustic consultant at Arup, Dave Rife.