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Photo by: Harry Heuts

Born in Japan, moved to Hawaii, went to boarding schools in New England, trained as a Buddhist monk, served as a cadet at the US Military Academy, worked as an attorney in New York, and now a PhD fellow at Maastricht University, one might think that Mark has many experiences and ideas worth sharing. While this is certainly true, he believes that he needs to listen more instead. As a teacher at the Maastricht University Faculty of Law, Mark deeply cares about creating a better dialogue between students and the teaching staff. He firmly believes that education should be modernised and that teachers could learn a lot from paying attention and listening to their students more. This was the topic of his PechaKucha talk earlier this year.

The question Mark is now asking is this: “If we only listen to important people, are we missing out on something?” In other words, are we doing ourselves any favors by listening only to good or smart ideas? He believes that there is much that can be learned from even crazy or silly ideas. Mark will be the first to admit that is not a new idea, but too often, it is not applied in practice. Teachers sometimes fail to listen to their students. Companies focus more attention on shareholders and not enough on their employees. More generally speaking, we are reluctant to listen to others when we do not agree with them or deem that their ideas are somehow less worthy. Through his doctoral research on labor exploitation, Mark has found that organizations that continuously challenge their own ideas and adapt their perspectives were the more successful ones.

When he was asked about why people should come listen to his talk, his response was quite surprising: He said that we should listen to him speak because he is not really an expert in his field. Given that there is already an over-abundance of incredible TED talks by inspiring figures, Mark thinks that it might be interesting if someone completely unqualified was given an opportunity to address the TEDx crowd. After all, if we don’t listen – even to voices that we might not agree with or deem worthy – we might never change our perspective.

Valentin Calomme
Communication and social media