Let me tell you a story (about story telling). Once upon a time, back in November 2006, I was working with a couple of friends, Toby Moores and David Tebbutt, on a project connected to commercial creativity. We were meeting up at Toby’s office in Leicester to discuss our ideas, having just come back from what we (and others like Dennis Howlett) believed was the must attend gig of 2006 – the first Office 2.0 show in San Francisco which had been organised by another friend called Ismael Ghalimi. Back then we had been bouncing ideas around about how creativity isn’t really taught properly in our schools, colleges and universities and wondering why? Easy to find a study skills course or module in the curriculum, but where are the thinking skills courses? There are plenty of tools and plenty of material from the likes of Edward De Bono or Tony Buzan, but why isn’t creativity being given the prominence and status that it should within the education system, and more importantly the workplace? During our discussions we had been speculating on the nature of a system which was designed in the 19th century for a different industrial age, and which seems to have a set of priorities that don’t match the way the economy works now and how business is done in the 21st century. We had been working around the way to express these ideas, when the day before the meeting in Leicester I came across a video of Sir Ken Robinson on a website called TED.com and that changed everything. I was so excited to play the video to Toby and David when I got to Leicester. I wish I’d taken note of how many times that video had been viewed at that point in 2006, not many compared to the count now….
That video changed and focused our thinking around the backdrop of the creativity project we were working on, and introduced us to one of THE most important resources I’ve found while surfing the web and making serendipitous social media connections over the last decade. As of today The Sir Ken Robinson talk has become the most watched TED Talk of all time, but for me it was just the start of something really valuable.
Back in 2006 it was the first time I had taken notice of TED, a conference on Technology, Entertainment and Design which already had a 22 year history. It is run by a non-profit, private foundation, started as a one off event in 1984 conceived by architect and graphic designer Richard Saul Wurman, but became an annual event from 1990 onwards in Monterey, California with a strap line of “Ideas Worth Spreading”. In 2009 it moved to Long Beach to cater for a substantial increase in attendees, and then moved again to Vancouver in 2014. Originally the three words described the converged topics covered, but over time it has broadened to showcase the best of science, business and smart thinking on global issues. As well as the main conference there is a more International sister conference TEDGlobal, and independently run TEDx events to help share ideas in communities around the world – for example the other two Agile Elephant founders, Alan Patrick and Janet Parkinson, were heavily involved on the team organising TEDxTuttle, one of the first independent TEDx events to be run in the UK.
By 2015 you will probably have heard of TED.com, and if you haven’t it’s a resource that you need to go check out and mine immediately. “TED Talks” have become synonymous with high quality, have redefined the elements of a successful presentation and the way people approach a talk. The term “TED Style” is often heard as a shorthand. At the conference speakers are given no more than 18 minutes to make their point. Some just speak from the heart, some use presentation material and visual aids, but the stature, quality and standard of the speakers that have gone before, and the quality of the audience at the event, mean a TED talk must be outstanding. There are a number of books that explore the style, but I would recommend one by Carmine Gallo, the presentation specialist, called Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds. He has interviewed many of the top TED presenters and distilled things down to the key ingredients and a step by step approach to help you emulate the best.
Some suggest that TED is elitist as it costs $6,000 to attend the main conference. However, as of today there are over 2,000 TED talks published and available for free at TED.com, viewed by over a million people each day – an amazing resource of ideas and important thinking. They have even started the TED Open Translation Project to bring the material to the 4.5 Billion people on the planet who don’t speak English.
Of the 2,000, where do you start? This post sets the scene for a sequence of posts highlighting the best of TEDtalks online – those we think you will enjoy and why. I’m not sure how many there will be in the sequence – at least 10, maybe 20 or more. Many have key messages about business and how to be successful at a time of massive digital disruption and transformation for all industries. One of the sequence that I’ll recommend is, on the face of it, about music but has a profound message about leadership. The first recommendation, in the next post, will be that talk by Sir Ken Robinson mentioned earlier – it’s about education but so much more.
If you want to understand more of our Agile Elpehant thinking, check the rest of our blog material and take a look at the Enterprise Digital Summit London in October. We’d love to hear your comments or suggestions or to see you in London next month.
(Cross-posted @ Agile Elephant)