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Got 18 minutes? Invest that time in a TED Talk

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By Pat Sisneros
Herald Columnist
A few weeks ago on the television game show “Jeopardy,” the Final Jeopardy answer was name “the intellectual forum started in 1984, bringing together people from 3 different industries, hence its 3-letter name.”
One of the contestants correctly answered: “What is TED?”
You know an organization has arrived and is part of the popular culture when it becomes an answer on “Jeopardy.”
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. TED is a nonprofit organization whose slogan is “ideas worth spreading.” TED asks some of “the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less).”
If you’ve never watched or listened to a TED Talk, you need to do so. Make it one of your things to do in 2014. For us, TED Talks are food for thought — a chance to explore interesting topics in business, science, the arts, technology and global issues, expand your mind and provide new ideas to improve your small business.
New ideas — in just 18 minutes. What a great return on your time investment.
The impact of TED has grown significantly in the past few years. There are now more than 1,500 TED Talks available on the website and more are added each week. The Seattle public radio station KUOW (94.9 FM) has a “TED Radio Hour” from 9 to 10 p.m. each Tuesday.
If you are new to TED Talks, where should you begin? We’d recommend you start with the TED Primer, where 11 classic TED Talks on a variety of topics are listed. By watching these classics, you’ll have a chance to experience the different topics TED offers.
We’d then suggest you search the list of TED Talks related to business. There are over 250 of these.
Check out the list of all the TED Talks ever given, this list with a short summary of the talk can be put into a spreadsheet making it easy to explore.
Next, download the TED app onto your smart phone or tablet so you can listen to any talk during your commute, driving between appointments or on a lunch break.
Finally, consider developing a list of talks you can share with your employees using the topic as the focus of a discussion during staff meetings.
We have far too many favorite talks to list in this column. Here are our top five TED Talks so far (along with their summary listed on the website):
Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts: “In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.”
Daniel Pink: The Puzzle of Motivation: “Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don’t: Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think. Listen for illuminating stories — and maybe, a way forward.”
Sheryl Sandberg: Why we have too few women leaders: “Facebook (Chief Operating Officer) Sheryl Sandberg looks at why a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions -- and offers 3 powerful pieces of advice to women aiming for the C-suite.”
Salman Kahn: Let’s use video to reinvent education: “Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy shows the power of interactive exercises, and calls for teachers to consider flipping the traditional classroom script — give students video lectures to watch at home, and do ‘homework’ in the classroom with the teacher available to help.”
Dan Ariely: What makes us feel good about our work? “Behavioral economist Dan Ariely presents two eye-opening experiments that reveal our unexpected and nuanced attitudes toward meaning in our work.”
The influence of TED on the conversation in business, science, technology and more will only continue to grow. Take the time to engage in that conversation.
Ryan Davis is the dean of the Business and Workforce Education department at Everett Community College. Pat Sisneros is vice president of College Services at EvCC and a longtime small business owner. Send your favorite TED Talks to us at
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