Let’s face it: If you can’t engage other people in things you care about professionally or artistically, your ideas are unlikely to spread.
To help you get some hold on what it means to care deeply about things and how to use all those brilliant ideas to some actual advantage in life, we’ve collected a list of TED talks by interesting and creative people. We think these will help you enjoy your focused interests as much as being circumspect about how to include others.
Some say TED talks are cheesy. Others think they’re too catchy, and that the TED talk concept oversimplies issues and imposes impossible infotainment ideals on hard questions. It does seem unfair to expect super concise TED presentations in academia, research and funding drives.
But there are tons of really hard hitting and informative TED talks out there. Many of the most charming and inspiring we’ve found originate from independently organized TEDx events. These “indie conferences” gravitate towards local speakers who are more close to ordinary humans and less superhumanly polished than the Nobel prize posse presenting at main TED events.
Let’s have a look!
Behavioral economist Dan Ariely, the author of Predictably Irrational, uses classic visual illusions and his own counterintuitive (and sometimes shocking) research findings to show how we’re not as rational as we think when we make decisions.
Author Elizabeth Gilbert offers a witty and warm look at common fears related to creativity. She goes on to bash unhelpful tropes and clichés about suffering artists, which have been perpetuated to the point of being a toxic hellstew of truisms. This talk is a one of the best available on TED.com about creativity and living with expectations based on previous successes.
Organizations are often run according to elaborate and nerve wrecking pecking orders, where value is placed on outperforming everyone. And yet, this isn’t what drives the most high-achieving teams. Margaret Heffernan, a writer and veteran leader in the software industry, wants to tell the world about a better way. Her way just happens to be proven to create the most efficient teams. According to Heffernan, what tends to solve problem is not in-fighting groups of the sharpest minds, but social cohesion. If team members have the time and courage to ask each other for help, perhaps over coffee, there’s a good chance to get trust, ideas and great results in return.
Author, academic and South Caroline college president Ben Dunlap tells the story of his most inspiring friends. The people in question all shared a habit of life-long self-education. Dunlap’s talk prominently features the story of Sandor Teszler, a business owner and Holocaust survivor of Austro-Hungarian origin, who resettled in the southern United States to pioneer as a anti-segregation business owner.
Decades ago, entrepreneur Magnus Walker migrated to Los Angeles from his native Sheffield, UK with no education and a bleak future ahead of him. In his TED talk, Walker explains how he stumbled over almost silly business opportunities that lead him to create a designer brand worn by rockstars. He also shares his experience of letting go, in how he abandoned his fashion gig when things started to feel too stuck. Walker, now in the business of Porsche sports car restoration prides himself on a gut instinct that has allowed him to not become trapped by his own success.
Marketer Seth Godin’s 2003 TED talk on spreading ideas is a classic and a must watch if you want to communicate at scale. Even though the talk is thirteen years old and predates social media, one major trend in media and advertising is already identified: the diminished role of what Godin calls the “TV industrial complex”, mass media with advertising, in systematically spreading new, groundbreaking products to consumers. By stating that being a good inventor or engineer is nowhere near enough, Godin dissects the concept of modern, integrated product design and marketing. This deserves a rewatch, even if a friend of yours posted this talk on a clunkier, boxier Facebook back in 2007.
Repetition is the mother of learning. To further drive home Seth Godin’s points above, let’s continue on a similar note. In short, Simon Sinek says that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” If you want others to share a vision with you, you better get a little calculating about how to talk to the right parts of their brain, just like all these touchy-feely TED talks.
Branding strategist and writer Terri Trespicio pokes fun at “motivational industry” notions about following singular, main passions. Because it’s time to stop pretending everyone has loaded parents. This is however not the “Hip To Be Square” celebration of conformity one might be looking for, rather some sound reminders of how careers don’t go anywhere without making oneself available and useful for other people. Trespicio’s view on sound dedication to passion is just that: not waiting for perfect opportunities to come along but to grab on to whatever’s available and to spin it in the direction you want.
Magician Brian Miller reminds us that his field of work requires an expertise in perspective: both in controlling and observing one’s own trickery and identifying with the audience. Miller has some very down to earth observations on the social and emotional skills required for anyone delivering magic, which are very much applicable to anyone who needs to communicate a lot with family, friends, co-workers and business partners.
Know of any other awesome talks? Please let us know in the comments below!