The top ten Ted Talks to communicate and innovate

Do you want to learn how to communicate better, have better conversations, or learn how to be more creative? Do you wish you could speak up for yourself more or just know when someone is lying to you? These ten Ted Talks provide valuable lessons for working and living more effectively. Each summary gives you individual insights from some of the most informative and valuable Ted Talks available.

These short (about 18 minutes on average) talks provide an opportunity to learn skills that will make us better leaders, better coworkers, and even better people. Each talk featured on TED includes a transcript, and most include notes, references, and a reading list for further information.



The following will focus on improving the “Innovation and Creativity” of your person or your team.


1. 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 people make the mistake of waiting for that big moment of insight to happen all at once. But innovation takes time to develop, and it requires different viewpoints from a network of contributors with different skills and backgrounds. When brainstorming – the more viewpoints, the better, because collaboration reveals things that can make an idea more complete. When someone generates ideas based solely on their own experiences, they often come up with a one-dimensional solution that isn't completely developed. Ideas shouldn't be protected or kept secret; they should be connected with other ideas to come up with better solutions. 18m


2. 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 someone views their work determines their 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 how someone sees their work, one can become more engaged and find the 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 is in a state of stress or negativity, leading to better results and more successes. Taking the time to appreciate successes and by understanding how work is a part of a larger goal, its possible to feel happier about our day to day tasks. It's not a matter of the work we are doing now; it's a matter of what that work will mean once it's done. 12min


3. 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 impede work, rather than promote it. This theory of work is that the office isn't a good place to get work done because most companies and offices aren't set up to allow time to think. The demands to be creative and generate ideas are frustrating because a typical office environment offers no free-time to think things through and develop new insights. Most companies fill the workday with various tasks and responsibilities, but they also want employees to “think creatively.” Until an organization stops talking about innovation and creates a workplace that fosters innovators, new insights will never be discovered. 15min


4. 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 people who have developed a system for creating successful ideas. Original thinkers are afraid just like everyone else, but they are afraid of failing to try instead of being afraid of possible failure. These thinkers have the habit of trying over and over until they get it right. Original thinkers get ideas moving quickly because they know that once an idea starts moving, a lot of the details will reveal themselves along the way. In spite of obstacles or failures, they know that they will learn something that will be valuable in the future. Ideas don't develop quickly. Ideas need time to be able to change directions as different factors come in to play. Ideas need time to evolve. Great results don't happen overnight; they are created through trial and error and patience. 15min


5. 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 just for “creatives,” it's also for those who see themselves as “analytical” as well. Many people don't see themselves as being creative, and they don't realize that creativity is a trait that can be practiced and developed. When people feel that they aren't the “creative type,” then they naturally fear situations where they have to come up with new ideas. The first step to overcoming this fear is to understand that everyone is creative.

Years of avoiding their intuitions and own insights, relying instead on an analytical approach, makes people uncomfortable when they have to generate new ideas. People are afraid of rejection or judgment because those creative muscles are so weak. The second step is to be willing to try. By seeking out opportunities to practice creativity, anyone can learn to trust their instincts and contribute insights and ideas when they need to. When someone consistently practices coming up with ideas, they can't help but get better at the process. 12min



The following five TED talks focus on improving your communication and inter-personal skills.


6. 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 people could use a healthy dose of self-confidence or benefit from learning techniques to deal with stressful situations. A simple solution for someone who is feeling powerless or afraid is to simply stand up, put their hands on their hips and strike a “power pose.” Power posing means standing confidently and proud to generate feelings of power. Power posing and other physical stances have been proven to change thought patterns and diminish fears. The act of appearing powerful boosts confidence and eventually creates the habit of feeling powerful. By taking a “fake it till you make it” approach, someone can practice posing until they develop consistent feelings of being in control. 21min


7. 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. Each personality “type” brings different, but valuable, resources to the table. Introverts are typically overlooked for leadership roles, but research shows that they tend to be more careful and better able to foster innovation in the people they lead. Introverted people may seem shy, or just not “out going,” but the truth is that they approach things in a slower, more methodical way. Introverts are thinkers first, while extroverts tend to be “doers.” Introverts can become more comfortable sharing their unique, creative views more often by realizing how much they have to contribute and why their input is so valuable. 19min


8. 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 most people tell when someone is lying to them? Most people hear lies up to 200 times per day, and they tell quite a few lies themselves. Two of the best techniques for spotting a lie is to pay attention to speech and body language. Liars will typically use more formal language and qualifying statements, like “To be honest...” or distancing statements like “That company...” rather than “The ABC Corporation.” Body language can also reveal lying. Contrary to popular notions, 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 (often just a little too long) to compensate for the notion that liars won't make eye contact. Techniques like these won't necessarily stop all that deception, but they will help in spotting lies more often. 19min


9. Ten 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 communicate better and build better relationships, there are some ground rules for getting the most out of conversations.

  1. Be fully committed to the conversation, no mental multitasking.
  2. Don't focus so much on getting your point across. Allow the other person to respond and contribute.
  3. Use open-ended questions. “Yes” and “no” answers contribute nothing.
  4. Go with the flow. Don't think of what you will say next, just listen.
  5. If you don't know something, say you don't know.
  6. Don't assume your experiences apply to the other person. Everyone's experience is different.
  7. Don't repeat yourself. Get your point across to the best of your ability the first time.
  8. Don't worry about the details. Details can be boring and distractive. Just get to the point.
  9. Listen. This one rule will do more for having better conversations than anything else.
  10. Be brief. Brevity is not only a welcome trait of good conversations, but it also shows respect for the other person's time.



10. 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.”

Most people have the experience of leaving a meeting or a conversation kicking themselves for not speaking up. The willingness to speak up, especially in tense situations, is all about power. The two key factors here are creating a feeling of power and appearing powerful to others.  Power in negotiations comes from having alternatives, while power in asking for help comes from the willingness to take the other person's perspective.

Other types of power include advocating for others rather than one's self. When someone takes the tactic of speaking up for someone other than themselves, the other person will be more receptive. Expertise, the willingness to be flexible, and showing humility are other useful “power tools” that can be used to open up a conversation and be heard. Speaking up is about being prepared, understanding where the power comes from, and practicing until the habit becomes a skill. 15min