Do you want to learn how to be more creative or have better conversations? Do you wish you could speak up for yourself more or just know when someone is lying to you? These ten Ted Talks provide practical, valuable lessons for work and life backed by research. Each summary reveals insights from highly regarded experts that anyone can put into practice.
These short (about 18 minutes on average) talks give us the foundation for learning skills that will make us better leaders, better coworkers, and even better people. Each talk featured here includes a transcript, and the video links include notes, references, and a reading list for further information.
Where Good Ideas Come From
“…I’ve started calling it the “liquid network,” where you have lots of different ideas that are together, different backgrounds, different interests, jostling with each other, bouncing off each other – that environment is, in fact, the environment that leads to innovation.”
Are you still waiting for that “Eureka!” moment where you come up with the greatest innovation ever? Most of us make the mistake of waiting for that big moment of insight to happen all at once. But change takes time, and it requires viewpoints from a network of contributors with different skills and backgrounds. Collaboration and brainstorming reveal insights that just can’t be discovered from a single point of view. Diverse input almost always results in the development of ideas that are more complete and more actionable. When you generate ideas based solely on your own experiences, the result is often a one-dimensional approach that prevents any real innovation. Ideas shouldn’t be protected or kept secret; they should be shared and connected to come up with better solutions. 18m
The Happy Secret to Better Work
“What we found is that only 25% of job successes are predicted by IQ, 75 percent of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.”
The way you view your work determines your level of satisfaction with the work. Most long-term happiness, in work and life, is predicted not by what happens to someone but how they view the experience. By changing your perspective, you can become more engaged and find your work more enjoyable.
By focusing on the positive aspects of work, it’s possible to create a “happiness advantage.” In this state of happiness, the brain performs significantly better than when it’s in a state of stress or negativity, leading to better results and more successes. Taking the time to appreciate achievements and understanding how work is a part of a larger goal, it’s possible to feel happier about your day to day tasks. It’s not a matter of the work you are doing now; it’s a question of what that work will mean once it’s done. 12m
Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work
“…and what you find is…that people really need long stretches of uninterrupted time to get something done.”
The traditional workplace may not be the right place for getting work done after all. Too often, the typical office environment isn’t a good place to get work done because it’s not set up to allow employees time to think. It’s hard to meet the demands to be creative and generate ideas because most workplaces provide no free-time to think things through and develop new insights. Most companies “talk” innovation, yet they continue to fill the work day with various tasks and responsibilities, leaving little time for creating anything new. Enterprises that are serious about innovation and creativity must replace traditional work environments with workspaces that foster the exchange of ideas and allows time to develop those ideas. 15m
The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers
“Procrastinating is a vice when it comes to productivity, but it can be a virtue for creativity. What you see with a lot of great originals is that they are quick to start but they’re slow to finish.”
Original thinkers are innovators who have developed a system for creating successful ideas. These thinkers have the habit of trying over and over until they get it right, and they see each failure as an education. Original thinkers move quickly on ideas because they have learned that a lot of the details will reveal themselves along the way. They understand that great ideas don’t develop quickly, they need time to incubate and grow. The patience to allow ideas to develop and the understanding that failures are just part of the process is what sets original thinkers apart. Original thinkers are afraid just like everyone else, but they are scared of failing to try instead of being afraid of failure. Great results don’t happen overnight; they are created through trial and error and patience. 15m
How to Build Creative Confidence
“I really believe that when people gain this creative…that they actually start working on the things that are really important in their lives.”
Innovation isn’t reserved just for “creatives,” it’s for those who see themselves as “analytical” as well. Many of us don’t see ourselves as being creative because we don’t realize that creativity is a trait that can be practiced and developed. When we feel that we aren’t the “creative type,” then we naturally fear situations where we have to come up with new ideas. The first step to overcoming this fear is to understand that everyone is creative.
Years of avoiding your intuitions and insights, relying instead on an analytical approach, creates habits that aren’t very effective when it comes to developing something new or different. Most of us are afraid of rejection or judgment because our creative muscles are so weak. By seeking out opportunities to practice creativity, you can learn to trust your instincts and build up those creative muscles. As you develop your creativity, you naturally become more comfortable with your “creative side, ” and this creates a cycle that continues to strengthen your inner innovator. 12m
Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are
“So when you feel powerful, you’re more likely to appear powerful. But it’s also possible that when you pretend to be powerful, you are more likely to actually feel powerful.”
Most of us could use a good dose of self-confidence or practical techniques for dealing with stressful situations. A simple solution for anyone who is feeling powerless is only to stand up, put their hands on their hips and strike a “power pose.” Power posing means standing confidently to generate feelings of power. Power posing and similar physical stances have been shown to change thought patterns and dilute fears. The act of just appearing powerful boosts confidence and, with practice, creates the habit of feeling powerful. By taking a “fake it till you make it” approach, anyone can practice posing until they develop consistent feelings of being in control. 21m
The Power of Introverts
“…when psychologists look at the lives of the most creative people, what they find are people who are very good at exchanging ideas and advancing ideas, but who also have a serious streak of introversion in them.”
A third to half of all people are introverts. These typically quiet, thoughtful personality types have as much to offer as their extroverted counterparts, but their contributions are often so guarded that they remain undeveloped. Introverts are typically overlooked for leadership roles, but research shows that they tend to be more meticulous and better able to foster innovation in the people they lead. Introverted people may seem shy, or even antisocial, but the truth is that they only approach things in a slower, more methodical way. Introverts are thinkers first, while extroverts tend to take action quickly. But introverts can learn to share their unique contributions more often by embracing their methodical approach and acknowledging the value of what they have to offer. 19m
How to Spot a Liar
“…I’m going to show you what the research says about why we’re all liars, how you can become a lies spotter…”
Can you tell when someone is lying to you? Most of us hear lies up to 200 times per day, and we are often just as guilty as the next person. Two of the best techniques for spotting a lie is to pay attention to speech and body language. Liars tend to use more formal language and qualifying statements, like “To be completely honest…” or distancing statements like “That project…” rather than “The ABC Project…” Body language can also reveal a liar. Contrary to popular belief, liars will often “freeze” the upper part of their bodies rather than fidget or appear restless. Liars will also look you right in the eye to compensate for the notion that liars won’t make eye contact. These, and other techniques won’t necessarily stop all that deception, but they will help you spot those lies more often. 19m
10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation
“I’m going to teach you how to interview people, and that’s actually going to help you learn how to be better conversationalists. Learn to have a conversation without wasting your time, without getting bored, and, please God, without offending anybody.”
For anyone that wants to learn how to build better relationships through better communication, there are some practical steps for getting the most out of every conversation.
1. Commit fully to the conversation. No mental multitasking or thinking ahead.
2. Allow the other person to respond and contribute freely, instead of focusing on getting your point across.
3. “Yes” and “no” questions add nothing. Use open-ended questions to help the conversation develop.
4. Don’t think of what you are going to say next when the other person is talking, just listen.
5. If you don’t know something, say you don’t know. Learning is a natural product of good communication if we just embrace it.
6. Everyone’s experience is different. Don’t assume your experiences apply to the other person.
7. Don’t repeat yourself to drive home points. Get your point across to the best of your ability the first time.
8. Don’t worry about the often boring and distractive details. Keep the focus on the points at hand.
9. Listen intently. This one rule will do more for having better conversations than anything else.
10. Be brief and don’t waste words. Brevity is not only a trait of good conversations, but it also shows that you value the other person’s time. 12m
How to Speak Up For Yourself
“One of the most important tools we have to advocate for ourselves is something called perspective-taking. And perspective-taking is really simple: it’s simply looking at the world through the eyes of another person. When I take your perspective, and I think about what you really want, you’re more likely to give me what I really want.”
Have you ever left a meeting or a conversation kicking yourself for not speaking up? Most of us have had this feeling, especially in tense situations where we feel out-gunned or ill-prepared. If you want to speak up for yourself more often, you have to realize that it’s all about power. The two key factors here are creating a feeling of authority and appearing influential to others. You don’t have to have all the answers; you just have to have techniques to create a more level playing field.
Having a variety of alternatives in negotiations is power. Having the willingness to take the other person’s perspective is also power. Other types of power include advocating for others rather than one’s self. When you use the tactic of speaking up for someone other than yourself, the other person will be more receptive. Expertise, flexibility, and showing humility are other useful “power tools” to help you stand up for yourself. Speaking up is about being prepared, understanding where the power comes from, and practicing until the habit becomes a skill. 15m