Is it Weird, Different or Inspiring? Lessons from TED Talks

by Massimo Burgio, July 2010

I love TED Talks, the series of inspirational keynotes that bring together the smartest people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment and Design (hence, TED). Started in 1984, the project now got to a much larger scope, inviting to deliver a keynote the most influential, inspiring and ingenious people of our society, people with a vision, with courage and with a little more than something to say – they say things that can change the world, or at least your way of thinking.

TED is much more than TED Talks. There are two TED Conferences in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, a TED Global conference in Oxford (UK) each summer, the TED Talks video site, a TEDx program for TED events worldwide (one of the most famous is TED Talks India) and an annual TED Prize award. TED spreads out also into the Open Translation and Open TV Projects, equally cutting edge initiatives. I can suggest to take your time to listen to a few of the keynotes. I tried to make a shortlist of my favorite TED Talks, but it is impossible – they are so many!

Anyway, I can certainly list of the keynotes that made me change (or refine) my way of thinking, enlightening, entertaining and definitely inspiring me both at personal and professional level, sometimes even beyond that:

Steve Jobs on life, death and connecting the dots
Elizabeth Gilbert on creativity and genius
Evan Williams on listening to Twitter users
Bill Clinton on citizen service, health and economic empowerment
Bill Gates on energy and zero carbon emissions

Seth Godin on standing out with bizarre ideas
Bono on technology, idealism and Africa
David Carson on design and discovery
Seth Godin on standing out to spread ideas
Jane McGonigal about online games and saving the world
Sergey Brin and Larry Page on Google
Al Gore‘s new thinking about climate change
JJ Abrams on the mystery box
David Perry on videogames
Jacek Utko
on experience design for newspapers

Paula Scher on being serious
Philippe Starck on design
Ross Lovegrove on organic design
Richard Branson on business and life motivations
Chris Anderson (Wired) on technology’s long tail and freeconomy
Stefan Sagmeister on the power of time off
Bill Joy
on health, education and future tech

Chris Anderson (TED) on TED vision
Isabel Allende on passion
Pranav Mistry
on sixthsense virtual reality technology
Kevin Kelly on the future of the world wide web
Martin Seligman on positive psychology
Joshua Klein on the intelligence of crows
Michael Shermer on strange beliefs
Matthieu Ricard on buddhism and happiness
James Randi on psychic fraud
Jill Tarter on SETI research
David Deutsch on parallel worlds
Lee Smolin on science and democracy
Amy Tan on creativity
Paola Antonelli on design and the elastic mind

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I’ll better cut this list down, I can easily list a few more dozens of inspiring TED Talks keynotes! =)

Since many of these keynotes are long (some go even up to 20+ minutes) and I know my readers don’t have the time to explore them all, I invite everybody to find your own perfect inspiration by browsing the 700+ TED Talks published online on the TED Talks website. You can browse all TED Talks by category  (technology, entertainment, design, global issues and so on) or by the emotional mood you want to get with the TED Talks ideas: persuasive, courageous, ingenious, fascinating, inspiring… what kind of idea are you looking for? Don’t have the time to browse all the ideas? Let them come to you by subscribing to the iTunes video podcast!

Always for those who don’t have time, I embed on this page one one of the shortest, but nevertheless smartest and more inspiring TED Talks I ever watched. Derek Sivers, the creator and CEO of, one of the major CD and DVD online stores, delivers a keynote for TED Talks India and tells us a quick tale about diversity. A quick tale that can easily change the way you think at many of the “weird” things you come across every day in business, as well as everyday life.

Drop stereotypes. Enjoy the show. Spread ideas worth spreading.

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