Best for: Entrepreneurs
Everybody’s favorite marketing sage knows a thing or two about ideas, both good and bad. To him, what matters now is not how great a product or innovation is, but to what degree you can capture busy people’s attention with it. That being the case, weird and even bad ideas are preferable to pretty good ideas. If you want out-of-the-box thinking, this is the talk for you.
Best for: Shopaholics
Wait, less stuff? Yes, the founder of sustainability news outlet Treehugger.com makes a run at the 70-odd years of American consumerism culture with this short talk about getting small in your life. Hill believes that buying things, even nice things, is all well and good but that if we’d simply pare down our purchases to fit our real needs, we’d leave a smaller environmental footprint and we’d be happier, to boot.
Best for: Americans
If you want Sam Richards strung up for treason by the time you’re halfway through his talk, you’ll know your thinking had grown decidedly boxy on the issue of the United States’ place in the world. The sociology teacher leads you on a mental trip into the mindset of an Iraqi insurgent in the hopes that you will begin to empathize with your fellow man, which he calls the key to sociology.
Best for: Impatient people
This (m)ad man has given three TED talks, and you really can’t go wrong with any of them. But this one (adult language warning, by the way) is full of hysterical insights on the way people look at things, and it’s so funny because it’s so true. As one example of Sutherland’s radical thought process: instead of spending nearly $10 million on a train that shaves 40 minutes off a trip, Eurostar could have saved 90% of that by hiring supermodels to hand out free wine and people would have been wishing the trip were longer. Enjoy.
Best for: Anyone not named Bill Gates
De Botton puts his finger right on something that probably most of us have been feeling but didn’t know anyone else also felt: that this technological age where anything is possible for anyone, while great, also brings a lot of guilt. He suggests that maybe it’s time we all gave ourselves (and others) a pass for not becoming billionaires.
Best for: Homo sapiens
Through his books like the bestselling The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, Pollan has become the face of the new food activism movement. Here he invites all of us to reconsider our relationship to nature and to entertain the possibility that we are not at the top of the food chain, as we have always assumed. This new way of thinking could be the key to healing both the planet and ourselves at the same time.
Best for: Victims
In a word, and at the risk of gushing, this talk is fantastic. In just under 20 minutes, journalist John Hockenberry expounds on the advice of his father, a designer who basically built his philosophy of life around design. The advice empowered the younger Hockenberry to reclaim the reins on his life after a car accident left him dependent on a wheelchair. And oh, what a snazzy wheelchair it is, too.
Best for: Men
Educator and activist Porter delivered this talk at a TEDWomen conference, even though guys are the ones that need to hear it. The mold he wishes men to break free from is the “man box” mentality that shuts out feelings and insists on a homogenous image of a “real man.” His hope is that is losing their fear of being compared with women, men will begin to value women more highly and violence against women will disappear.
Best for: Couch potatoes
Who better to get some out of the box wisdom from than a guy who’s a world-famous North Polo explorer? The question from his talk’s title is an actual query from someone who wonders if doing anything is even necessary since we can now use technology to live vicariously through virtually anyone else. Unsurprisingly, Saunders is not big on the idea, and he’ll tell you why.
Best for: Nativists
Adichie grew up reading British and American literature in Nigeria. Upon coming to the States for college at 19, she was surprised to find many of the people she met had extremely narrow, negative opinions of her homeland. She herself had never formed such misguided beliefs of the U.S. because of the books she had read all those years. It was then she realized the power of stories to frame our thinking, and the importance of exposing ourselves to many different points of view.
Best for: Creatives
What is it about the creative tilt that drives the people with them to suffering, mental instability, and even death? That is the question the author of the breakout smash Eat, Pray, Love asks in this talk. In the hopes of keeping our greatest creative minds, you know, alive, Gilbert proposes removing some of the pressure on artists by revisiting the way we think of creativity.
Best for: Septuagenarians
As this world traveler points out, the average human body is made to last about 90 years, but in the United States, most of us are only making it to around 78. So how do we keep from losing those dozen years? Forget what you think you know about longevity and follow along as Buettner shares the secrets of communities from around the globe whose members are still kicking well into the triple digits.
Best for: Parents
The autism rate is now at its highest recorded level in the U.S., with 1 in 88 children born with the condition. While it’s not something any parent would wish for a child, TED speaker Temple Grandin — she of the TV movie by the same name — argues the world needs these different kinds of minds. You might call Grandin an autism celebrator, as she doesn’t so much suffer from the disorder as encourage her listeners to appreciate the promise in young autistic kids’ minds.
Best for: Happiness seekers
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi nearly got the nod in this category for his talk entitled “Flow, the Secret to Happiness,” but you can read his book on the subject if you’re really interested. On the other hand, Matthieu Ricard — dubbed “the happiest man in the world” — needs to be seen on video to be appreciated. The Buddhist monk and former biochemist maintains we can change our way of thinking to be happier, or even happy all the time. He seems pretty mellow himself, so there must be something to it, right?
Best for: Managers
Telecommuting has a huge fan in Jason Fried. Here the co-author of Rework synthesizes his radical philosophy of business into a 15-minute talk about why, when we truly need to get something done, none of us heads to the office. There we are met with the “M&Ms”: managers and meetings. Between the two of them, they chop our workday up into what he calls “work moments.” If that sounds familiar, give a thought to his suggestions for making the office employees’ go-to productivity spot.
This is a cross-post from onlinecollegescourses.com; Why Work Doesn’t Happen At Work; image attribution flickr user nist6ss