Staff Picks: 4 Inspiring TED Talks

Whether you’re a business owner, manager, c-suite executive, or freelancer, we can all benefit from listening to a TED talk or two. TED, or Technology, Entertainment, and Design began in 1984 as a small conference for innovative thinkers. While the early TED days focused on technology and design, now TED has swept the nation and has expanded its topics, languages, locations, and ideas in order to promote a more connected global community. We asked our team here at ConceptDrop to share their favorite thought-provoking TED talks, which we hope you will find inspiring in accordance with TED’s slogan “ideas worth spreading.”

  1. How Great Leaders Inspire Action

With over 37,000,000 views, Simon Sinek dissects what makes a person or company inspirational. He shares the ways “great leaders” think, act, and behave. In this TED talk, he draws and discusses the “golden circle,” which has a small circle entitled “why” inside a bigger circle titled “how” inside a bigger circle called “what.” Often when presenting an idea, we have a tendency to talk about the “what,” then move to the “how,” and finally the “why.” He challenges us to reverse the order of the “what,” “how,” and “why” in order to improve our communication skills which will also lead to more inspirational pitches.

How do we do this? Sinek references Apple’s successful products/campaigns by framing the way they advertise with the “golden circle” in mind. He enacts Apple and starts by saying, “Everything we do we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently.” In this sense, he is talking about the “why” of Apple’s company or their philosophies. Then he says, “The way we challenge the status quo is by making the products we use beautifully designed, simple to use, and user-friendly.” This explains the “how,” or how the products function. Finally, he asks, “We just happen to make great computers, wanna buy one?” In other words here, the “why.” Rather than put the focus on computers, he claims that Apple focuses on the “why” of their company before the “what,” or the tangible product.  

The takeaway here is to change our modes of communication in order to become effective leaders and communicators. According to his repeated mantra, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” a helpful quote for any professional to keep in mind during their day-to-day responsibilities.

  1. 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation

Celeste Headlee analyzes conversations. She suggests that these days the art of conversation is getting lost in a world of constant arguments. Headlee reminds us that conversations involve both listening and talking, and we often forget to listen. She starts this talk by asking how many people in the audience have unfriended someone on social media who has said something offensive. She strives to prove that even if you have differing views from someone else, that you can still learn from them in a conversation, so long as that listening/talking balance is maintained. In “10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation,” she lists ten ideas we can implement in order to change our ways of conversing that will make us feel more engaged with anyone we’re talking to. Some of her pieces of advice include “enter every conversation assuming that you have something to learn,” “ask open-ended questions,” and “don’t equate your experience to someone else’s.” What we can learn from this is engagement and clarity when communicating with another person, which will ultimately help us avoid conflicts.

  1.  Build a Tower, Build a Team

Maybe you’ve done the marshmallow challenge before, whether with your coworkers as a team building exercise or recreationally. In this challenge, you have eighteen minutes to make the tallest free-standing structure using only twenty pieces of spaghetti, one-yard tape, one yard of string, and a marshmallow, which has to be on top of the structure. Tom Wujec researched teams of four conducting this challenge and discovered a lot about the nature of collaboration. He found out that often people working in business would discuss all of their options before building their structures vs. kindergarteners who continually built failed structures without discussion before figuring out what worked best. While he doesn’t give us a winning formula for the marshmallow challenge, he says that he discovered that when the stakes were higher for this (i.e. when a money prize was involved) the rates of successful structures were lower. Again, this teaches us a lot about ourselves and our collaboration tendencies. He concludes by saying that design is a “contact sport” where you can bring your senses and critical thinking to the table as long as you also go through many attempts and work with your teammates by staying calm. The gem from this TED talk is learning about how to collaborate with others even during challenging tasks.

  1. The Power of Vulnerability

Brené Brown doesn’t think that Americans are embracing vulnerability, or being our most exposed selves emotionally. And she’s right because being vulnerable is not easy. According to Brown, however, being vulnerable also has extremely positive results. TED’s website states, “Brené Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity.” Brown suggests that often when we are feeling sad or anxious or angry that we ignore these emotions with distractions, such as eating or drinking; we distance ourselves from our vulnerable sides. Rather than distract, she suggests that the best way to behave is to embrace what we don’t know in everyday life, even if that makes us anxious. This, obviously, takes practice.

Even in our professional lives, we can be vulnerable. For example, if you are having a difficult day on the job or with a project, it’s important not to shame yourself for this, but to also take responsibility for your actions/mistakes. We can allow ourselves to make these mistakes because we’re humans and we can allow others to make some mistakes, too. All in all, she wants us to practice compassion because, in this sense, we will feel more comfortable with ourselves and working with others.

Do you have any other TED talks that you find particularly engaging? Let us know by either tweeting us on Twitter or commenting on our Facebook post with your own TED experiences. We’ll retweet your suggestions!

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