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December 2010


TED Talks: Ideas Worth Spreading


What are the big take-aways?


The big take-aways are endless! “TED” stands for “technology, entertainment, design.” In 1984, TED (a non-profit organization) hosted a conference to promote “ideas worth spreading” in these three subject areas, and the conference topics have just taken off from there ever since. TED now runs at least two major international conferences a year, among other events, and publishes the conference presentations for free on the internet for viewing, download and discussion in various digital formats – and in a number of languages. (All TED Talks are also available on YouTube and can be downloaded and discussed on that website, as well.)


To find them, simply Google “TED Talks” and check out the website to search by theme, subject, speaker, language, date, etc. or browse. When I entered the search term “leadership” at the time I wrote this, I was offered 92 choices. Two talks that I recently viewed and highly recommend are:


• Derek Sivers, “How to start a movement” (3 minutes). Via a video example of a crowd of young people apparently at an outdoor rock concert, Sivers deftly extracts quick and insightful lessons in leadership, followership, and movement-building. Sivers is also very funny. My favorite quote from this talk is: “The first follower is actually an underestimated form of leadership in itself…The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader.”


• Simon Sinek, “How great leaders inspire action” (18 minutes). Sinek is the author of the book Start with Why (Portfolio, 2009), and this talk is an elegant synopsis of its basic argument about how successful leaders and businesses enroll “believers” (followers and customers). Sinek’s mantra is “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” He is persuasive in his idea that if leaders spoke more about what they believed, they would attract more believers.


Why do I like it?


TED Talks are all fresh, engaging and enlightening. The presentations themselves are well-filmed and -produced. Because the talks range from roughly 2 minutes to 20, you can quickly choose and view a talk for whatever length of time you have available. I occasionally set aside “professional development” time for myself and watch as many talks as I can in chunks of anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes. The talks are riveting because the speakers are both passionate and concise, and the visual aspect of many presentations is captivating. The talks can be contagious; when you finish one, more are offered as “what to watch next” and I often find them hard to resist!


In what situations would this be useful?


For any leader who is committed to keeping updated on the trendiest ideas in almost any industry, TED Talks are perfect. They provide succinct and useful summaries of various kinds of information which a leader can then decide whether s/he needs to follow up on at a deeper level. Because TED Talks are such an extremely versatile resource – in terms of both time and topics – they are ideal for particularly busy professionals. For leaders who have lengthy commutes, for example, TED Talks can be podcasted as a great way to get refreshing “hits” of creative inspiration or education on-the-fly.


What other resources might “pair” well with it?




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