The epitome of intellectual cool arrived in Abu Dhabi yesterday with the city's first annual TEDx event.
Billed as a brain spa and hosted under the banner of an American non-profit company whose motto is "ideas worth spreading", TEDx brought together speakers to discuss science, business, the arts and other globally important issues.
Those addressing yesterday's event at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre included the director of the economic and social studies department at the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, Google Gulf's regional manager, a behavioural characteristics and workforce trends specialist and Facebook's chief operating officer - in a recorded speech fed in via videolink.
"Each organiser adds a personal touch to the event," says Carmen Oprea, the organiser of TEDx Abu Dhabi.
She had held TEDx events back home in Romania, and decided to bring them to Abu Dhabi after moving here last year.
"For Abu Dhabi, we tried really hard to put together a list of speakers who will address specific issues for the city, for the country or for the region," she said.
The speakers included Yiannis Lagos, the president for international markets at Humantelligence, who spoke about five myths of the modern workplace.
"We are human and we often use conventional wisdom when it comes to managing our people," he told the audience. "But this conventional wisdom does not really work."
The first myth, according to Mr Lagos, is that efficiency in business has improved as productivity has increased. Studies show that the average return on assets has dropped to a quarter of what it was in 1965.
Other fallacies include the commonly held belief that the chief executive is the most important person in the company and that businesses should invest only in high-potential employees.
But the biggest myth of all, said Mr Lagos, is that money can buy effort.
Experiments have shown that money can be an effective motivator for mechanical tasks such as moving boxes. But for tasks that require more brain power, money actually has the opposite effect.
"We can't reward people with money when we ask them to use their brains," said Mr Lagos.
People take many of the myths for granted, said Doris Hazzan, a senior analyst with Jones Lang LaSalle in Dubai. But Mr Lagos "had stats to prove otherwise", she said.
Like many others attending the event, she was familiar with TED.
"I watch TED Talks a lot on YouTube and I can't believe they're here, so I am really excited to see them live," she added.
Tim Gilliatt, who also attended yesterday's event, uses TEDx talks as a resource in his job as a science teacher at Dubai British School.
"It's really quite interesting to see the future concepts," he said.
Tom Segers and Nadege Noblet both travelled from Dubai to attend the talks.
"I think if it was during the week we wouldn't have made it, especially coming from Dubai," said Mr Segers.
Other speakers at the event included Yalman Khan and Kunal Wadhwani, both founders of Agricel, a company based in Dubai that uses a water-efficient process to grow crops without soil. "Ninety per cent of all the water used in agriculture is wasted either in evaporation or by seeping into the ground," said Mr Khan.
Their speech included a stark warning.
"Mother nature will sustain itself. We as a dominant species, if we want to sustain our dominance, we have to change a lot of things," said Mr Wadhwani.
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