TEDxJNJ – Steve Garguilo

In Collaborating, Curating by Mark Sylvester


The Hack: Find Amazing People. Let them do their thing.

Steve Garguilo runs the Office of Creative Engagement at J&J (Johnson and Johnson), and TEDxJNJ is one of the first corporate TEDx events. Learn how this program went from 60 people in a bar after work to one of the most successful TEDx programs in the Fortune 500. He is also the co-author of Surge: Your Guide to Put Any Idea into Action.

Steve has a degree in Humanitarian Engineering and helped launch TEDxPSU as an alumnus (more of the story here). He, like Daniel at TEDxKL, was inspired in the beginning by Lara Stein, of TED.

Now that there is a TEDxJNJ somewhere in the world, every week, and a team of employees who help produce, he's focused on a bigger vision of finding hidden voices and talents in the Company. He says that where they've ended up is not what they originally conceived of and that they didn't start with a grand vision.

Creativity is a muscle. You need to exercise it."Steve Garguilo

The Lightning Round

  • Tell us a bit about your background and your TEDx origin story.

    Steve started watching TED talks in 2007 and in 2010 a Facebook friend invited him to help at TEDxPSU. From there he's gone to creating an entire department that produces 50+ TEDx events a year for a community of 23,000 at Johnson & Johnson. With no money and no corporate permission, Steve held the first TEDxJNJ in a bar after the close of business with 60 co-workers.

  • How many TEDx events have you worked with or produced?

    Steve has been producing or volunteering since 2010. Two years into his TEDxJNJ journey, he went to HR and began a conversation that ended up in the creation of his department, the Office of Creative Engagement, which now drives a culture of innovation inside the company.

  • What makes your TEDx unique?

    First off, this TEDx is inside the company, for employees only. Steve says' that the mission is to find the voices that don't have a platform for their ideas. Steve believes that each person is a bonafide member of the larger TEDx community, and as such, is concerned about ideas worth spreading. In this case, the ideas spread inside the company. The Community of Changemakers that now exist inside the enterprise numbers 4,000 active employees. He tells of one woman who had an idea, presented it on the Red Circle, and has since gone on to build a skunkworks team and rally resources to build out her idea.

  • What’s your Superpower?

    Collaborating and Curating. He's got a knack for being able to have a sense of what people will find interesting. He makes sure that all the bases are covered in each event, including things that might be 'weird.' He firmly believes that these talks change the lives of the speakers as well as the audience.

  • What was the biggest surprise while working on your event?

    How much time it's taken to establish TEDx inside the company. There's now a dedicated manager, Penelope, running the effort with 19 leaders around the world at each campus. There's also a certification process in place to ensure training is delivered consistently. Steve suggests that these people are not event organizers, rather, they're Community Builders.

  • Every event has its challenges, what was the biggest dragon you had to overcome?

    Succession management. Make sure you're thinking beyond the event and long term, which means you need to replace yourself.

  • What’s one piece of advice you have for veteran organizers? For first-timers?

    Do it. Make sure that you're viewing yourself as a community builder, not an event organizer.

  • Looking forward to your next event, what excites you the most?

    Steve says it's all about learning something new at each event. He's headed to TEDxCathage, in Tunisia soon.

  • What’s a TEDx event that you’d like to attend?

    TEDxLunarLanding, yes, he wants to attend a TEDx on the Moon.

  • The show is called Hacking the Red Circle, so what's your best hack?

    Find amazing people and let them do their thing.

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