This post has been updated on January 30, 2020.
If you know how to use a browser and you’re interested in the things that happen within and around you, I bet you’ve stumbled upon at least one TED Talk that captured your attention from beginning to end. Maybe it’s the perfect duration of the speech, maybe it’s the great subjects, maybe it’s a combination of these — but TED Talks sure have a way to keep watchers mesmerized.
TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainments and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages.
TED is simply spreading ideas that matter.
7 TED Talks for L&D professionals
Without further ado, here are 7 TED talks spreading ideas about how people learn, what motivation means, the role of the workplace, and other topics learning and development professionals could find interesting.
The following videos come in no particular order and the list is highly subjective:
The puzzle of motivation, Dan Pink
Career analyst Dan Pink talks about how people are motivated and how they should be motivated. Enticing employees with a sweeter carrot or threatening them with a sharper stick only works in limited workplace situations. Yet managers do this every time.
But if businesses turned away from fear-based management to trust-based management and strive for intrinsic motivation — autonomy, mastery, and purpose — for employees, they’ll see higher engagement and productivity rates and lower turnover rates.
As an instructional designer or L&D professional, your job is not to make employees learn; your job is to allow them to learn.
The happy secret to better work, Shawn Achor
In this laughter-sprinkled talk, psychologist Shawn Achor talks about positive psychology and how it can be used to motivate people. Instead of focusing on all the negative things surrounding us, we should train our brains to find and focus on the positive things.
It can be hard to do this at work since workplaces are usually stressful. But it can be done. And employees that are positive perform significantly better than negative, neutral, or stressed employees.
Dopamine, the happy hormone, does not only makes us happy; it also turns on every learning center in the brain. When employees are positive, they focus better, learn faster, and adapt to their environment better.
L&D professionals could use a trick or two of positive psychology when designing training strategies or when creating courses.
Why work doesn’t happen at work, Jason Fried
Software entrepreneur Jason Fried believes that the office — the place where people go to work — is not the same place where work actually happens. In order to get something done, people need long stretches of uninterrupted time. And the office is full of interruptions.
Just like in the case of sleep, when we get interrupted during work, we can’t just take on where we left off; we need to start over, go through work phases in order to get in the flow and get things done.
Based on this idea, L&D professionals can seriously consider m-learning — making training materials available for employees to access whenever and wherever they need to, when they know they can get things done.
Where good ideas come from, Steven Johnson
Making you crave some caffeine at first, writer Steve Johnson connects the “liquid networks” of London’s coffee houses to the human brain and the creation of new pathways between synapses. Having ideas is a physical process after all.
He goes on to say that Eurika! moments don’t really happen out of the blue. Good ideas often have long periods of incubation, and the example of Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is spot-on. Eureka! moments may happen while we’re alone and focused on our work, but the incubation of an idea is strongly connected to our social network. Talking to people, sharing hunches, and working together on these hunches can lead to incredible outcomes.
L&D professionals need to keep in mind that people are social animals and they learn a lot by being part of a group. Therefore, they should observe the social learning happening between employees, encourage and facilitate it.
The power of introverts, Susan Cain
Author of Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking, Susan Cain talks about what it means to be introverted, from childhood settings to workplace settings.
Society prizes extroverts for being so outgoing and great at socializing. But up to two-thirds of people in this world are not that social, and their inner worlds are more important than being outgoing. These people are not ill, bad, weird, nor shy; they’re just introverts. And they’re everywhere: in every school, in every workplace, in every social gathering.
Getting to know introverts, to understand their needs and to find their extraordinary talents and abilities is something every L&D professional should do, or at least try to do.
7 Ways games reward the brain, Tom Chatfield
Gaming theorist Tom Chatfield talks about the positive things games can bring to our lives. People are hooked on playing games because of a few simple reasons: progress bars, multiple long- and short-term objectives, rewards for all efforts, instant feedback, or the element of uncertainty.
But the main reason behind this staggering popularity of games is that they can be measured. Absolutely everything a player does is tracked, measured, and used to make the game even more appealing.
If we take these gaming concepts and adapt them to a non-gaming environment — like workplace learning — we get gamification. This term is very familiar to any L&D professional, and this TED Talk is yet another reason for them to consider including gamification in business training courses.
The workforce crisis of 2030 — and how to start solving it now, Rainer Strack
Human resources expert Rainer Strack talks about the future and the job landscape of 2030. Technology advances — robots, artificial intelligence, big data, automation — will transform the job market as we now know it. Some jobs will disappear, but many others will be born as well.
10 years is not that much time for a company with serious future plans. But in order to avoid the workforce crisis that will probably happen in 2030, they have to change the tactics as soon as possible. Employees are not mere headcounts that receive salaries. The human resource will be a company’s greatest asset, there’s no doubt about that.
We are already witnessing a huge wave of knowledge transfer between generations of employees. This wave is just starting. It will become even greater, and having an employee-centered thinking will go a long way.
This talk gives any L&D professional an assurance that jobs related to workplace learning and development will not disappear any time soon. In fact, training will play an important role in dealing with the upcoming workforce crisis.
And so ends my highly subjective list of TED Talks for L&D professionals. I’m sure there are plenty of other talks that could become an eighth, ninth, or even tenth entry, so I invite you to share your suggestions in the comments section below. This list can grow bigger at any time based on your input.