Kutz tapped for TEDx talk on ‘contextual intelligence’

As a professor of athletic training at BGSU, Dr. Matt Kutz is not only preparing the next generation of U.S. athletic trainers and athletes, he has also helped developing countries like Rwanda and Honduras begin to build those programs where none had existed.

That’s quite an impact, and yet Kutz has unexpectedly found himself also sought after for an entirely different sort of expertise, something he calls “contextual intelligence.” It’s an idea that has caught fire with corporations and other organizations as a leadership development practice, and has recently resulted in his being invited to present a TEDx talk on the topic.

Kutz will give his TEDx talk in Toledo on Sept. 17 — the latest development in what has been “a whirlwind for me,” he said. Although he has presented his concept dozens of times now in seminars and workshops internationally, the 18-minute TED talk is supposed to be “the talk of your life,” he said, and requires intensive preparation. Talks are recorded and posted on YouTube, where they can receive millions of views.

“You have to memorize it and rehearse it, and yet it should have the feel of an impromptu talk,” he said. “With the 18-minute limit, there’s no ramp time. I’ll have to hit the ground running.”

The talk will also not be the time to delve into the research data behind his leadership theory. “I really have to use storytelling to make the points. I’m working on balancing the ‘academic-ness’ of it with the pragmatic practicality of it, using real-life stories as proofs. I’m really looking forward to it,” Kutz said.

The TED (Technology/Entertainment/Design) phenomenon, begun about 30 years ago in California at a conference by the same name, has gone international and spawned a multitude of local TEDx events run by volunteer “curators” in which people from all walks of life who have innovative ideas are given a platform to share them.

TED talks take the ancient medium of storytelling and bring it into the digital age. Which is appropriate for Kutz, since his concept, contextual intelligence, is actually based on the wisdom of the ages. It’s an idea, as he says, that is written about in the Old Testament: Possessing and using knowledge and understanding of one’s times to inform decisions and enable wise leadership.

The book he wrote on the topic, “Contextual Intelligence: Smart Leadership for a Constantly Changing World,” was named tops in the innovation and cutting-edge perspective category in 2013 by the University of San Diego’s Department of Leadership Studies. Kutz is now incorporating some of the same approaches he will take in his TEDx talk to the second, revised edition.

“That’s been one of my biggest challenges and probably what has changed the most,” he said. “As academics, we relate to research very well because that’s what we’re trained for. But only a small percentage of the population is that way, and in the executive world and the business world, people want to hear different proofs of effectiveness, about how, when and where it worked. They’re interested in the practical application, something they can apply tomorrow.”

Kutz’s method for developing this innate type of intelligence and translating it into leadership skills has been adopted by such companies as Procter & Gamble. He has presented it as far away as Ireland and Rwanda, and this fall will give a series of six customized modules to Toledo Public Schools administrators.

“It’s opened up so many different opportunities for me,” he said. “It’s been a strange journey but a lot of fun.”