Favorite talks from TED 2012

As far as my favorite TED talks from this year, here are the ones I'd most recommend and why (I'll link to them if they are available, but the TED folks tend to roll them out over the course of the year), listed in the order they appeared at the conference:

  • Susan Cain: "The Power of Introverts" -  As a closeted introvert and a manager of many more, this talk really resonated with me. Anyone who thinks of themselves as an extrovert should consider this required viewing, especially if you lead teams. Here's the blog post.
  • Reuben Margolin, Kinetic Sculptor: A quiet walk through the work of a highly inventive and creative mind. His sculptures feel like they exist in the overlapping space between robotics and ballet. Here is a blog post.
  • Billy Collins: One of my favorite quotes of the conference: "When I was poet laureate...God I love saying that. Because it's true." Such a dry wit and sharp tongue. It's lovely to see poetry come alive in collaboration with animators, too. Again, here's the blog post
  • Sharon Beals: The fragile beauty of birds' nests - I was taken aback by the artistry of Beals' photos, but more importantly, the birds themselves who created the subjects of her work. Some beautiful examples are included in the blog post
  • Reggie Watts: How to describe him? Comedian? Musician? DJ? Provocateur? Uh, yes. And God, how I love a good TED roast. And the topper? Turns out he's a really nice guy. Here's the blog postReggie's own site, and a TEDx talk he gave ont he East Coast
  • Sherry Turkle: This one was a bit painful. When one of the most important thinkers about humans and technology questions whether we need to rethink the impact that over-connectedness is having on our humanity, it causes an audience-wide existential crisis. Turkle asks why we expect more from technology and less from each other. And it's about time. Here's the blog post and a TEDx talk she gave on a similar topic
  • Bryan Stevenson: We need to talk about an injustice - Another favorite quote (paraphrased): "So I submitted a motion to have my 13-year-old, poor, black defendant tried not as an adult, but as a 75 year old white corporate executive." Amen. Here's the blog post, a well as a follow up note from TED's Chris Anderson explaining how the TED community rallied to raise over &1M overnight to end the practice of long term incarceration of children in adult prisons. . 
  • Chip Kidd: So funny, so thought-provoking, so inspiring. I loved this talk, and all that it revealed about someone who is a master at what he does: book design. Here's the blog post
  • David Kelly: Creative confidence is something most kids have in spades, but unlearn as they grow older. How can we reverse the trend? IDEO's founder gives a thought-provoking and ultimately very personal talk on why we all need to opt-in to creativity. Here's the blog post
  • John Hockenberry: Why would a journalist be featured in a session on design? Because Hockenberry speaks so eloquently on designing a "life of intent." Make sure to stay to the end of this talk and be treated to his gutsy and unique cover of The Beatles' "Get Back". Here's the blog post
  • Abigail Washburn: Chinese speaking, stereo-type-busting, banjo-playing, curly-haired wonder Washburn is now a new Stewart Family musical favorite. Here's her website
  • John Bohannon & Black Label Movement: "That’s childhood. It’s a Manhattan Project of nakedness.” Sorely needed, frank commentary and reflection on the state of sex ed and talking to kids about sexuality. All wrapped in a wonderfully artful presentation. Here's the blog post, though you really *must* see the video when it gets released. 
  • Rafe Esquith: You can't have an inspiring session on the state and future of education without including Rafe Esquith, and more importantly, his band of merry players, all donning "Will Power" t-shirts in honor of The Bard. If we could clone Esquith and his dedication to these high-achieving lovers-of-learning who mostly come from low-income, non-English-speaking homes, we might be OK. Here's the blog post.   
  • Brené Brown: Appropriately, this vulnerability expert spoke honestly and, well, vulnerably, about a key area of study: shame. How does it differ from guilt? And how does it keep us from being creative, innovative, and happy? Truly worth a watch when it's posted. In the meantime, here's the blog post

Phew. It was a great week, though as usual, emotionally and intellectually a bit exhausting. Now, the trick is to hone in on the key things you actually want to focus on moving forward, since one person can't move all these needles at the same time.  Some things that could change the world, and somethings that are about understanding and changing ourselves. And the realization that those two things are very much connected.