TED@UPS: Could Biology Cure Traffic Congestion?

What if traffic flowed through our streets as smoothly and efficiently as blood flows through our veins? Wanis Kabbaj sits down for a Q&A.

In September, UPS Healthcare Strategy Director Wanis Kabbaj gave a TED@UPS talk. Longitudes caught up with him recently to talk about the experience and what he hopes people might learn from his presentation.

His talk is being featured on TED.com – click the link below to view. Afterwards, check out our Q&A with Wanis below.

Q. What was the most enlightening surprise from the TED@UPS experience?

Honestly, everything about TED@UPS was enlightening and surprising. TED is a unique organization that is obsessed with fresh ideas so much so that they created this unique “process.”

I don’t even know if you can call it a process. This peculiar methodology, this magical 10-week mystical experience, nurtured and grew interesting seeds of ideas into original and very personal talks.

What is surprising is that you go through this process without really understanding the big picture, and you only realize it once you are on stage delivering your talk. It is surreal.

[Also on Longitudes: The Route to the Future]

Q. What do you hope people take from your talk?

I think we all have a strong relationship to transportation and technological progress in our daily lives.

These two notions are associated with positive things like human liberty and improved quality of life. But over recent times, their connotations have changed.

Daily transportation in congested cities increases our stress, and technological progress has accelerated so much that many of us wish things would slow down a bit or go back to good old times.

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 It reminded me that I could always do more, think further, dig deeper…

As I was crafting my talk, my main goal was to give back to people in the audience that sense of wonder, that smile, that love for movement and exploration and that excitement for human ingenuity.

Q. How did giving a TED@UPS talk inspire you?

It really inspired me on two different levels.

It inspired me individually in the sense that it reminded me that I could always do more, think further, dig deeper and that we rarely use our resources to our full potential in our daily lives.

Preparing and giving the TED talk was an intense reminder of that truth and of the joys of growing oneself.

And more importantly, it inspired me socially through my interactions with the TED@UPS coaches, organizers, live audiences, fellow speakers and the now-virtual audience.

The three days spent with the 10 other UPS speakers was an absolute blast, as we all encouraged each other and rooted for each other.

The warm and sincere reaction of fellow UPSers after the talk was a vivid reminder of how extraordinary UPS is as a company.

I feel incredibly blessed to be a UPSer. 

[Also on Longitudes: Look Ma, No Driver!]

Q. What would you tell others thinking about giving a TED@UPS talk?  

I did not apply to TED@UPS the first year because I didn’t think I had an idea worth sharing in a TED-talk context.

I thought I needed to have a PhD thesis draft ready in my laptop.

The truth is: We all have ideas/things that we are passionate about.

PhD speakers are not always the best TED presenters because you only have 10 minutes to give your talk, and knowing too much can be a challenge.

TED@UPS is an opportunity for anyone to take that thing you care about, bring it to a whole new level and be transformed in the meantime.

It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I highly recommend it to anyone. goldbrown2

Click here for Wanis Kabbaj’s bio.


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Wanis Kabbaj is Healthcare Strategy Director at UPS. He is responsible for developing a fast-growing portfolio of transportation products, uniquely designed around the specific needs of healthcare customers with a special focus on pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device sectors.

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Reprinted with permission of Longitudes, the UPS blog devoted to the trends shaping the global economy.