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2018 TEDxNorthbrookLibrary: "Rethink"

On Saturday, May 19, our second live TEDxNorthbrookLibrary event featured four speakers with ideas worth spreading.


Meet Our Speakers

amy torfAmy Torf: Curly Fries and Creative Problem Solving
Team Building Leader + STEM Educator

As a lifelong creative problem solver, Amy has enjoyed a variety of careers, including as a robotics engineer, teacher, day camp director, and entrepreneur. From her first invention (an automatic dog water dish) to creating two businesses, Noggin Builders and TeamUp Events, Amy most enjoys learning and innovating. Through her work, she develops methods that encourage children and adults to explore and enhance creative problem solving skills. In her spare time, Amy enjoys spending time with her husband, three children, dog and bearded dragon, and she especially likes playing logic and strategy board games.





james lynchJames Lynch: The Best Leadership Training Program? It's Not a Leadership Training Program
Chief Possibility Officer

James M. Lynch is a former General Manager and Corporate Trainer. While working in the recruiting industry he was able to grow a regional player into a national industry leader using the lever of ‘culture’ and service. As an executive coach and leadership and development facilitator he works with training groups to create extraordinary results. His recent engagement as the Executive Director of The Art Center Highland Park allows him to ‘indulge’ himself as an arts activist and an administrator in one role. He lives in a north shore Chicago suburb with his wife and three children.





Nick Espinosa: Trust Sucks nick espinosa
Chief Security Fanatic

Nick Espinosa is an expert in cybersecurity and network infrastructure. He has consulted with clients ranging from small businesses up to the Fortune 100 level. In 1998, at age 19, Nick founded Windy City Networks, Inc. In 2015, he launched Security Fanatics, a cybersecurity outfit dedicated to designing custom cyberdefense strategies for medium-to-enterprise corporations. Nick is a member of the Forbes Technology Council, a Forbes columnist, an award-winning co-author of Easy Prey, and host of WHIW’s"The Deep Dive.”






shannon spaldingShannon Spalding: Why I Broke the Code of Silence
Police Whistleblower + Criminal Justice Reform Advocate

Shannon Spalding is a police whistleblower and advocate for criminal justice reform. As an undercover narcotics officer with the Chicago Police Department, she exposed a ring of corrupt law enforcement agents who terrorized the South Side housing projects and imprisoned nearly 500 people on false charges. Her story was the subject of a four-part exposé from The Intercept called “Code of Silence,” and she has been featured on major national and international news outlets such as NBC, Democracy Now!, and Al Jazeera. Shannon now works with The Exoneration Project, a legal team that works to overturn wrongful convictions.




Q&A with Amy, James, Nick, and Shannon: 

What impelled you to share your story?

AMY: Every day I teach kids how to brainstorm, and I noticed that too often adults don’t model creative problem solving. When asked a question we immediately answer or turn to a resource (typically on our phone). I wondered what would happen if instead we answered questions by asking, “What do you think?”

JAMES: When people ask me what I’m most proud of in my career, even though I have many great things to remember and be proud of, I think of this program, the one I’ll explain in my talk. It seemed that we somehow tapped into the best of everyone, accomplished a lot of good, and my job as a manager was so much easier, because my team was so close. Each person was ready to do what it takes to make the other successful, and that culture was a ‘golden period’ in my career. Of course now, as I’ve become more of a general consultant to many companies, I’d like to share this program again and again, so this talk will give me that potential ‘spotlight’ to recreate this great project.

NICK: We have a society that continues to embrace technology at a pace never before seen in humanity and with this explosion comes more avenues for malicious people to prey on those that don't really take their personal security into consideration. My goal is to inform the world that while they should love and enjoy the technology that makes their lives hopefully easier they also need to be aware as well as understand that security must be married to the technology they use.

SHANNON: The severe internal retaliation and threats I received from fellow officers during my investigation into police corruption. I wanted to ensure no other officer doing the right thing would ever walk in my shoes.


How would your talk give people a fresh way of seeing the world?

AMY: You never know what great idea you’ll think of next, unless you take the time to think about it. I hope my talk inspires people to stretch their creative thinking and problem solving in their daily lives.

JAMES: I want to let people know that their coming together for a goal, like a company, job, initiative, is so much easier to accomplish if you don’t just focus on what needs to be done, but how it can be done, and to spread the message that our people are our resources. I want to share the message of care and respect for our employees, and not see them as pawns to be manipulated to our ends. I’m a proponent of conscious leadership and hopefully, others will see that treating people right is the best strategy.

NICK:  We can turn on the news everyday and see that some organization has had a data breach, or a new virus has been developed that will steal our data. What most people do not understand, at a core level, is why this is and how these infections and breaches occur. With this deeper understanding, thanks to my talk, people will hopefully understand the world around us better and that, in our own way, we are all hackers without even realizing it. This realization will naturally enhance their security through understanding and awareness.

SHANNON: It would give everyday citizens a look into the world of an undercover whistleblower cop, something rarely ever seen by civilians, as officer cooperation was rare. It is called “The Code of Silence” for a reason but I’m speaking about it.


How do you spend your free time?

AMY: I love to play logic and strategy games with my family and friends. Some of my current favorites are Terraforming Mars (because it has interesting science concepts and takes a different path each time you play) and Space Team (because it's collaborative, fast-paced and silly), and my all-time favorite game is Dominion.

JAMES:  I hope it’s not cliche to say, but I don’t really separate work time and life. I am friends with my clients, enjoy my time with them, and take my philosophy to all things I do. I belong to a sailing club and I have helped them build their strategy and culture. I am involved in the arts and I manage a small gallery and classes, too. My time there is as enjoyable as a few hours at home watching TV (seldom) or reading a good book (often). But, if I was really to drill down, in my ‘totally free time’, I spend it with my family and whatever we’re doing together is great, as long as we’re together.

NICK: When I'm not working, writing or speaking, I love spending time with my family, traveling, motorcycles, chess, reading and volunteering my time for causes I believe in.

SHANNON: I am a huge animal lover and I spend any time necessary rescuing all creatures big and small. I have two boxer dogs, both rescues; I love going to the dog park or beach with them. My favorite is diving and walking on the beach. Family time is very important to me; spending time with them is one of my greatest gifts.


Is there anything you'd like to share about yourself?

AMY: One of my favorite activities is coaching Destination Imagination teams.  I mentor teams of children, ranging in age from 3rd grade to high school, as they design and build a unique and elaborate STEM project and showcase their creativity in a tournament.  The DI kids I work with continue to amaze and inspire me with each new project they create.

JAMES:  I suppose I should share that I’m 13th born in a family of 14. That positioning, especially in a family that had many challenges (my father died when I was 11), has helped me become aware of how people communicate, how to be a good facilitator and negotiate. The dynamic of a large family was sometimes similar to corporate systems, where there’s a hierarch, often competitive nature, and where each person tries to stand out. Growing up in that environment has helped me in so many ways that I’d never complain about the things we lacked - because the bonuses outweighed them.

NICK: When I was five years old my family got our first computer. When my dad left for work I took it apart piece by piece, screw by screw. After I got a serious and rather angry talking to from my Dad, I put it back together again and it fired right up. At that point it was "Game On" for me and technology!

SHANNON: I do not come from a big, wealthy or well-connected family. I am just an ordinary person, a person that made one small decision to do the right thing, repeatedly. If I can do it, so can you.


Please see our Past Events page for more information on our programs and discussions.