The value of TED in a distracted workplace

The sold-out TED Conference began yesterday in Vancouver. If your invite was lost in the mail, for $500 you can follow the entire conference on the live stream.

This year’s theme, ‘Truth and Dare’ challenges attendees to join a “quest to magnify the world as it might be. We will seek to challenge and reshape our core beliefs about today’s reality, but also to celebrate the thinkers, dreamers and mavericks who offer bold new alternatives.”

For critics who have likened TED to a revival meeting complete with evangelical speakers, this statement of purpose does seem to support their observations.

Before TED I thought ‘curators’ worked in museums and ‘thought leaders’ guided religious cults. But now my view has been broadened and I realize almost any experience worthwhile is ‘curated’ and ‘thought leaders’ are just folks whose publicists were more aggressive than the competition.

Criticism aside, TED provides a snapshot of where we are as a global culture, shining a spotlight on global issues in technology, entertainment and design. In 18 minute presentations, experts communicate an issue, suggest a solution and issue a call to action. Each video is professionally produced, with each speaker receiving coaching on image and delivery. Has the life been produced out of the presenters? Possibly.

For me, I view TED as a platform for online learning, a place to start research before delving more deeply into a topic.

It’s the rare employer who provides professional development programming in-house today. TED offers an introduction to important topics in ‘sound bursts’ that fit neatly into a workplace of distraction. This is where you can maintain your currency with trends and events. The TED Talks are one source to supplement your ability to talk for five minutes on a topic as you engage in conversations with colleagues and clients.

Here are three of my favorites:

Sherry Turkle: Connected, but alone?

Elizabeth Gilbert: Success, failure and the drive to keep creating.

Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts