Lisa Rivero M.A.

Creative Synthesis

Your Creative Summer

12 TED Talks to enhance your creativity

Posted May 26, 2012

Number twelve
I find this time of the year to be bittersweet. The long, peaceful days of summer beckon, with more time for reading and thinking and family walks, but, at the same time, I am always sad to say goodbye to the academic year. A surprising benefit of teaching is that there are always new beginnings to anticipate: new terms, new courses, new students, new discussions. The more difficult flip side is that all of these things also come to natural conclusions on a regular basis. Teaching is a profession rife with endings.

Last week I wrapped up a particularly satisfying class on creative thinking, which I described a bit in a previous post. To extend the experience a little longer, I am sharing here twelve TED Talks selected to accompany the course’s textbook, Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind: twelve TED Talks for twelve weeks of a more creative summer. For those of you who want to pair the talks with the book, relevant chapters from A Whole New Mind are listed in parentheses for each video. Some of the presentations are specifically about creativity, while others inform us about one or more of the six ”high-touch and high-concept aptitudes” (or senses) that Pink says are crucial for the conceptual age in which we live; Design, Symphony, Empathy, Story, Play, and Meaning. All of the videos have been selected so as to be in conversation with one another, building on and responding to a variety of ideas and questions.

Technology makes it easier than ever to continue the experience of learning beyond, sometimes far beyond, final exams and classroom walls. The lesson we can all take to heart is that our creative education never stops unless we want it to.


1. Ken Robinson’s classic TED Talk on how schools are failing our children when it comes to creativity

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(Right Brain Rising, Symphony)

"We think about the world in all the ways that we experience it. We think visually, we think in sound, we think kinesthetically. We think in abstract terms, we think in movement....The brain isn't divided into compartments. In fact, creativity, which I define as the process of having original ideas that have value, more often than not comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things." ~ Ken Robinson


2. Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice

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(Abundance, Design, Meaning)

“With so many options to choose from, people find it very difficult to choose at all.” ~ Barry Schwartz


3. Malcolm Gladwell on spaghetti sauce and the "perfect Pepsis"

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(Abundance, Design, Story, Meaning)

"[A]ll of science, through the 19th century and much of the 20th, was obsessed with universals. Psychologists, medical scientists, economists were all interested in finding out the rules that govern the way all of us behave. But that changed, right? What is the great revolution in science of the last 10, 15 years? It is the movement from the search for universals to the understanding of variability." ~ Malcolm Gladwell


4. Tim Brown on design thinking

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(High Concept, High Touch; Design; Symphony, Empathy, Play; Meaning)

"Instead of starting with technology, the team started with people and culture. So if human need is the place to start, then design thinking rapidly moves on to learning by making. Instead of thinking about what to build, building in order to think." ~ Tim Brown


5. Brené Brown on the power of vulnerability

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(Story, Empathy, Meaning)

"The only people who don't experience shame have no capacity for human empathy or connection. No one wants to talk about it, and the less you talk about it the more you have it. What underpinned this shame, this 'I'm not good enough,' which we all know that feeling: "I'm not blank enough. I'm not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, promoted enough." The thing that underpinned this was excruciating vulnerability, this idea of, in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen." ~ Brené Brown


6. Jonathan Harris on collecting stories

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(Story, Symphony, Empathy, Meaning)

"I'm interested in collecting my own stories, stories from the Internet, and then recently, stories from life, which is kind of a new area of work that I've been doing recently." ~ Jonathan Harris


7. Sarah Kay on spoken word poetry and telling our own stories

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(Story, Empathy, Meaning)

"I'm always trying to find the best way to tell each story. I write musicals; I make short films alongside my poems. But I teach spoken word poetry because it's accessible. Not everyone can read music or owns a camera, but everyone can communicate in some way, and everyone has stories that the rest of us can learn from." ~ Sarah Kay


8. David Kelley on building your creative confidence

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(Empathy, Play, Meaning)

"I really believe that when people gain this confidence ... that they absolutely start working on the things that are really important in their lives. We see people quit what they're doing and going new directions. We see them come up with more interesting and more just more ideas so that they can choose from better ideas." ~ David Kelley


9. Zach Kaplan and Keith Schacht on creating toys of the future

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(Design, Symphony, Play)

"I hope you're starting to see why we find these things so fascinating. Because every one of these six changed our understanding of what was possible in the world." ~ Keith Schacht


10. Tim Brown (again) on creativity and play

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(Design, Symphony, Empathy, Play, Meaning)

"[T]here are a series of behaviors that we’ve learned as kids and that turn out to be quite useful to us as designers. They include exploration, which is about going for quantity; building, and thinking with your hands; and role-play, where acting it out helps us both to have more empathy for the situations in which we’re designing, and to create services and experiences that are seamless and authentic." ~ Tim Brown


11. Elizabeth Gilbert on a new way to think about creativity

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(Story, Symphony, Meaning)

"[W]hat I have to, sort of keep telling myself when I get really psyched out about that, is, don't be afraid. Don't be daunted. Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be. If your job is to dance, do your dance. If the divine, cockeyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed, for just one moment through your efforts, then "Ole!" And if not, do your dance anyhow. And 'Ole!' to you, nonetheless. I believe this and I feel that we must teach it. 'Ole!' to you, nonetheless, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up." ~ Elizabeth Gilbert


12. Amy Tan on making something out of nothing

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(Story, Symphony, Empathy, Meaning)

"[I]f I feel what is in the story--in one story--then I come the closest, I think, to knowing what compassion is, to feeling that compassion. Because for everything, in that question of how things happen, it has to do with the feeling. I have to become the story in order to understand a lot of that." ~ Amy Tan


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