TED began as a nonprofit organization whose tagline mission promises to disseminate “Ideas Worth Spreading” in the areas of technology, entertainment, and design (and that’s where T.E.D. comes from). In the past eight years, TED has broadened its scope dramatically. In 2007, TED talks became available online; the website allows for free access to original speeches given at the annual TED conference. These speeches range widely in topics, but all are devoted to the “power of ideas to change attitudes [and] lives.” There are currently more than 1500 TED talks now available that can be shared and reposted: They’re only about 18 minutes on average, but that’s more than enough time to gain some fascinating, unique insights.
As of November 2012, TED Talks have been viewed more than one billion times. And TED is still growing. The organization hosts events around the globe. TEDIndia, held in 2009, examined the possibilities for the future of South Asia. TEDWomen was held in 2010 and will be held again in 2014, asking the question: “how are women and girls reshaping the future?” Also this year, TEDYouth will hold an event specifically dedicated to inspiring students. Clearly, the organization’s future looks bright.
The growing popularity of the website and its contents is a testament to the ways in which the internet has the power to create and connect, rather than to alienate. With more luck, these videos will continue to inspire discussion, passion, and action among their audiences worldwide. The expanding dialogue and exchange of creative ideas brought about by TED has much more on the way. But, until then, here are the most popular talks as per views during the last year.
10. Daniel Pink on the Surprising Science of Motivation (2009): 9,176,053 views
Daniel Pink is the author of several bestselling books about the world of work. In 2013, Thinkers 50 named him one of the top 15 business thinkers in the world. Dan Pink’s TED Talk examines the puzzle of motivation. Pink explains that the mechanistic reward and punishment approach businesses often use does not always work – in fact, sometimes it can even stifle creativity and slow our thinking. Indeed, where tasks involve cognitive skill, a larger reward incentive actually led to poorer performance. (You’ll have to watch to find out why!). Pink also offers a multiplicity of ideas about how to improve workplace motivation in a way that will yield successful and thoughtful outcomes.
9. Mary Roach on 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Orgasm (2009): 9,435,954 views
Given this talk’s title, readers probably don’t need convincing to check this one out. Mary Roach is a successful author who has conquered somewhat taboo subjects, such as sex, afterlife, and death. She even wonders about the rate at which cadavers rot (see her books Stiff and Spook). This TED Talk is full of curious surprises. Her most recent book, entitled Bonk, examines current perspectives on subjects like gynecology, sex research, and the adult novelty industry. Roach treats these topics in her talk with wit and ease, and is noted for her humor, as well as her tendency to “make…the creepy funny.”
8. David Gallo’s Underwater Astonishments (2007): 10,266,221 views
David Gallo is an oceanographer who has devoted his time to discovering more about the vastness of life in the ocean. Gallo appears around the country giving talks on issues pertaining to the ocean. Gallo was a co-expedition leader during an exploration of the RMS Titanic, and the German battleship Bismarck. Here he shows incredible footage of sea creatures in a brief but fascinating talk. If you’re curious about the mysteries and discoveries of undersea life, be sure to check this one out.
7. Tony Robbins’ Why We Do What We Do (2006): 10,425,014 views
If you’ve always wanted to watch Tony Robbins high five Al Gore, this TED Talk is the one for you. Tony Robbins is a widely successful life coach, with a variety of clients from CEOs to Olympic athletes. He has published a best-selling line of self-help books, and fills 10,000-seat seminars. In his TED Talk, Robbins draws on both his natural charisma and his impressive expertise in leadership psychology to explain why people behave the way they do, and how they can overcome fears to reach their full potential. (You might also recognize him from his very important role in the the movie Shallow Hal!)
6. Pranav Mistry on the thrilling potential of Sixthsense (2009): 12,068,105 views
Okay, this guy is a genius. Pranav Mistry has worked for Microsoft as a UX researcher, and is now a PhD student in the Fluid Interfaces Group at MIT’s Media Lab. His focus is on the integration of digital data with real world interactions. Mistry’s TED Talk includes such wonders as a pen that draws in 3D, intelligent sticky notes, and a tangible map that can act as Google of the physical world. We’re sure to be hearing more about Pranav as the technological world continues to develop; this talk demonstrates that he’s among the most exciting young inventors of our time.
5. Amy Cuddy on How Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are (2012): 12,682,694 views
Amy Cuddy is a social scientist and a professor and researcher at Harvard Business School, where she studies nonverbal behavior. She’s especially well-known for her work on “power-posing.” In teaching us to adjust our body language, Cuddy has discovered ways to make us believe that we are more powerful. Her TED Talk explores these findings, and offers plenty of interesting insight into human interactions and the ways in which our bodies can affect our brains. She states: “don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it.”
4. Brene Brown and the Power of Vulnerability (2010): 12,703,623 views
Brene Brown is a researcher at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame (all relatable topics). Her TED Talk discusses the ways in which we can learn to embrace vulnerability and imperfections so that we feel worthy rather than ashamed. She spent five years devoted to shame and empathy, and is now exploring a concept she calls Wholeheartedness. This is a particularly therapeutic talk, which probably explains its extreme popularity! Grab some chocolate and let Brown love you.
3. Simon Sinek on How Great Leaders Inspire Action (2010): 14,228,854 views
Simon Sinek is an ethnographer by training, and has focused on leaders who make an impact in the world – and why they’re so successful. His mantra is, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Sinek has said of his work that he tries to teach leaders how to build successful foundations that can inspire others. He writes for major publications and teaches graduate-level strategic communications at Columbia University. Anyone particularly interested in modern business and leadership will appreciate Sinek’s expert insights.
2. Jill Bolte Taylor’s Stroke of insight (2008): 14,343,197 views
Jill Bolte Taylor is a neuroanatomist; she travels the country on behalf of the Harvard Brain Bank as the “Singin’ Scientist.” Taylor suffered a stroke and spent eight years recovering her ability to speak, walk, and think. Holding a real human brain, speaking and thinking perfectly, Taylor explains the inner workings of the human brain – in light of the experience of having a stroke – with impressive clarity and even jubilance. She explains that her stroke created a newfound surge of creative energy from her right hemisphere, even though the stroke harmed her left. To understand why this was the second most popular TED Talk this year, you’ll need to watch it for yourself.
1. Sir Ken Robinson says Schools Kill Creativity (2006): 23,510,221 views
Sir Ken Robinson led the British government’s 1998 advisory committee in creative and cultural education, and in 2003 he was knighted for his accomplishments. His TED Talk focuses on the shortcomings of children’s education: Robinson asserts that, “we are educating people out of their creativity” because schools focus on turning children into workers rather than creative thinkers. He discusses the ways in which children who see things differently, or are particularly energetic or curious, are often shunned or ignored in our school systems. The most popular words from blog posts on his talk were: “Everyone should watch this.”
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