Six Ted Talks every careers professional should view and why.

Six I hear you say!  Why not 4 or 5 or 10? It all seems rather arbitrary.  Well you would be right, it is.  Or is it?  I really should have compiled a “Ten Ted Talks every careers professional should view” as according to various articles I’ve seen on the web like this one all lists tend to be zero dominated.  i.e people naturally round up numbers.  According to Google, it so happens that numbers ending in five are the next most prevalent.  So I’m consciously going against the grain and human psychology with the number six.

I don’t profess to have seen all or even most Ted talks (there are over 1700 of them).  In fact, I’ve only seen a very small proportion against the overall total.  But here are six talks I have seen that I believe relate to my work and why they were thought provoking.  So in no particular order, apart from starting with my favourite, here they are.

[Ted Talks videos and text are embedded on this blog under the Ted creative commons license]

How schools kill creativity. TED2006 · 19:24 · Filmed Feb 2006.  Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

Comment: It’s hard to argue against the view that education very often kills creativity.  Then there is the media hyperbole about “Mickey Mouse” degrees which encapsulates the view of “meeting the needs of industrialism” as Ken puts it.  Have a look at the Key Stage 4 curriculum in schools and note the core and optional subjects. Depressing isn’t it.  Or think about the numerous “funny children’s answers in tests” articles that float around the web like this.  There are some genuinely creative and original answers in there but the system dictates a big red cross.  Careers professionals need to be wary when helping students select course options at whatever level.  How do we help individuals discover their talent?

What will future jobs look like? TED2013 · 14:15 · Filmed Feb 2013 Economist Andrew McAfee suggests that, yes, probably, droids will take our jobs — or at least the kinds of jobs we know now. In this far-seeing talk, he thinks through what future jobs might look like, and how to educate coming generations to hold them.

Comment:  We cannot deny technological progress and its impact on the work environment and world economy.  Automation means low skilled jobs are in continued decline.  We need to encourage the Bills to aspire to be Teds and open their eyes to the new world order.  Funnily enough, creative industries will flourish, perhaps Ken Robinson is onto something.  In my blog post “The Future of Work” the report I mentioned talks frequently about economies being dependent on highly skilled and adaptive workers to thrive and succeed.  We need to encourage non-linear thinking and risk taking in order to help prepare people for the future.

Keep your goals to yourself TEDGlobal 2010 · 3:15 · Filmed Jul 2010.  After hitting on a brilliant new life plan, our first instinct is to tell someone, but Derek Sivers says it’s better to keep goals secret. He presents research stretching as far back as the 1920s to show why people who talk about their ambitions may be less likely to achieve them.

Comment:  Goal setting and action planning is a core component of career management and those using coaching models will see visualising goals as a fundamental exercise for their clients.  So is verbalising those crucial goals counter productive?  It seems like there is some evidence.  It seems counter-intuitive but at the same time does it mean we get clients to think about their career goals without actually saying them?

The art of choosing. TEDGlobal 2010 · 24:08 · Filmed Jul 2010 Sheena Iyengar studies how we make choices — and how we feel about the choices we make. At TEDGlobal, she talks about both trivial choices (Coke v. Pepsi) and profound ones, and shares her groundbreaking research that has uncovered some surprising attitudes about our decisions.

Comment: We are indoctrinated on choice assumptions.  However, our perceptions of choice are not universal.  We all need new perspective on our own narratives of the choices we have made and the choices and decisions we will make in the future.  We don’t all see choice in the same places or to the same perspective.  Careers professionals have a duty to understand their own choice assumptions as well as help clients unpick the choices in front of them.

The puzzle of motivation TEDGlobal 2009 · 18:36 · Filmed Jul 2009. Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don’t: Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think. Listen for illuminating stories — and maybe, a way forward.

Comment: Extrinsic reward isn’t effective for the right brain creative process.  Performance pay works for mechanical tasks but not higher functions.  Businesses need to tap into intrinsic motivations to get the most from employees.  Autonomy produces creativity. The video mentions the great example of Encarta v Wikipedia typifying each approach. We know how that worked out, right! In guidance how far do we talk about organisational culture that fosters autonomy, mastery and purpose versus the carrot and stick approach? This needs to feature in our career decision making in terms of the types of places we wish to work.  We need to help clients answer, how would I like to be motivated and why? More interesting is that this feeds back to what Ken Robinson says about creativity.  In the western world we seem to do our level best to kill it.  Incentivise through pay (carrot) and punish mistakes (stick).  Yet our place in the technological future requires creativity.

Success, failure and the drive to keep creating, TED2014 · 7:18 · Filmed Mar 2014. Elizabeth Gilbert was once an “unpublished diner waitress,” devastated by rejection letters. And yet, in the wake of the success of ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ she found herself identifying strongly with her former self. With beautiful insight, Gilbert reflects on why success can be as disorienting as failure and offers a simple — though hard — way to carry on, regardless of outcomes.

Comment:  I’ve written before about the roles of persistence and resilience and there place in your career. I also believe failure plays a crucial role as a precursor to any success.  So these are the themes I find myself writing about as education and work strive to eliminate failure.  I like this video because it threads things together. How intrinsic motivation creates happiness and the motivation to continue despite setbacks.

So these are my six videos each with important and enlightening messages that should give people working in the field of careers guidance food for thought.  If you can recommend any more Ted Talks please comment and share.  Thanks for reading.


7 thoughts on “Six Ted Talks every careers professional should view and why.

  1. I just watched the ‘art of choosing’ video – thanks so much for sharing this. I hadn’t seen it and it’s just what I was looking for as I’m working on a postgraduate essay on examining our own constructs and world-view generalisations. I definitely had a ‘Choice is good, choice is individual and choice shouldn’t be turned down’ ethic in play that I’d not been aware of, and I’m really pleased to bring these ideas into my awareness. Cheers!

  2. Pingback: 2014 blogging review: My five favourite posts. | Careerschap | The musings of a careers professional in the higher education sector.

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