December 29, 2012

Speaker Announcement: Gary Hirsch, Playing it By Ear
Category: 2013 Event, Speaker Announcements

Gary Hirsch

Gary Hirsch is the guy who was caught doodling in English class, only to yield a suitable witticism and not get busted. He’s quick on his feet, and with his pen. When Gary was young he had persistent bad dreams. His father suggested that, in order to alleviate this hardship, he illustrate the monsters that tormented him. And so, from an unexpected source of inspiration, Gary’s lifelong passion for art began.

Gary is now the Co-founder of On Your Feet, a creative consultancy that helps businesses implement improvisation into the framework of their business to better help them succeed. He also sat on the faculty as an adjunct instructor at Portland State University School of Business Administration and at Wieden + Kennedy’s experimental advertising grad school, “12”. Plus he draws. So well, in fact, that he is the founder of Doodle House, a website displaying his illustrations and wearable art.

Gary wants to see other people work together successfully to deliver outputs that are more than the sum of their parts, and he knows there’s a lot of ways for people to get started. From serendipitous events, to long standing plans to meet, Gary knows there are virtually endless ways of meeting singles, duos, trios and teams of people who want to collaborate. He is a self admitted co-creation junkie who loves turning ideas into action. “I am drawn to the art of improv, co-developed storytelling, and incomplete stories where the audience fills in the missing pieces,” says Gary. “Amazing inspiration and ideas can come from anywhere.”

If monotony is to boredom as creativity is to excitement, then surely the key element that makes all the difference is improvisation. It is why SNL is so funny, why political debates are won, why Miles Davis was the best, and it is why a New York Times article about On Your Feet said, “Improvisational thinking can open the door to what others call ‘happy accidents.’” The others in this case being the creative contrarians like Gary who embrace a lack of structure and unconventionality. Improvisation is here to be your great emancipator. While tried and true, inside-the-box-thinking methodology has its place in business and in life, the addition of some ad-libbing can help break the tension, inspire cooperation and stoke creativity.

At TEDxConcordiaUPortland (now known as TEDxMtHood) 2013, Gary would love nothing more than to see a genesis of projects led by TEDx attendees. “What would be really amazing and inspiring would be if each one of those 650 people grabbed someone next to them (so now we have pairs of 325) and they made something together,” encourages Gary. “Something physical, a story, image, movie, art, slide show, started a micro business for a weekend… then shared these stories with everyone else too!”

Between now and March 23rd, Gary will be busy with his consultancy, his illustrations, and his other creative endeavors, one of which is creating domino robot illustrations for anyone in need of a little bot joy. These bots are gifted, ordered and given away to many ends, some of which are very touching. For example, a bravery bot helps you boost your confidence and give you courage, as it did for a brave eight year old as she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes June 10. Gary is excited to leave another set of bots around the city for total strangers and see how they respond with joy at

We aren’t entirely sure how extemporaneous Gary’s upcoming March 23rd TEDx talk will be, but we won’t be surprised if he does a little improvising. Gary is one of our highly involved speakers who will be leading a TEDx Adventure on February 23rd, in which he will be teaching improv as part of our TEDx Adventure series that precedes the March 23rd event. Tickets to Gary’s adventure are available at Eventbrite. We’re excited at the TEDxConcordiaUPortland (now known as TEDxMtHood) planning team to see Gary incite everyone’s daring side to wing it!

Hunter Brookshier

Hunter Brookshier is a Portland, Oregon, based writer, marketer and musician. He’s passionate about grassroots communal organization and he loves the free market of ideas that TED and TEDx events and media help to spread. He’s thrilled to be part of this year’s TEDxConcordiaUPortland planning team. He’s one of several storytellers who will be sharing write-ups, interviews, and perspectives on the many extraordinary people from our surrounding community.