TAB's Top 10 TED Talks

Emily Maginess
By Emily Maginess under #TABLife 10 September 2015

It probably won't come as any great surprise that at TAB, we love TED. Links to inspiring, informative talks are a frequent feature on our Slack channels.  

With that in mind, we thought it was about time we shared the TED Talks that have made an impact on us. So, after a quick straw poll around TAB HQ, here's the Top 10 personal recommendations from the team.

With a variety of themes reaching far beyond the world of tech, it is time to get inspired by some of the world's most extraordinary speakers.

Massive-scale online collaboration - Luis von Ahn, April 2011

Recommended by: Edgar Antunes, iOS Engineer

Edgar loves this incredibly interesting and very amusing talk from Luis von Ahn, detailing how massive-scale online collaboration is easier than we think. von Ahn explains how an enormous task that is too big or complex to be accomplished by machines (like digitising books) can be divided into small, manageable chunks that can be taken on by people all over the world - for free!

A co-founder of CAPTCHA, von Ahn was initially pleased that his work was being used at such a wide scale. However, he soon realised that this had the potential to be harnessed for doing something of greater use, and helped create reCAPTCHAs, which have the additional benefit of crowdsourcing accurate word digitisation.

When something seems just too big to accomplish, break it down.

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The beautiful math of coral - Margaret Wertheim, February 2009

Recommended by: Peter Reed, Test Engineer

An insightful talk which may at first seem frivolous, it is however, worth the wait. Wertheim explores the use of some seriously advanced maths, and comes to a surprising discovery. What seems like a very dry, scientific pattern appears again and again in the natural world, and even more surprisingly in the formation of coral.

This was Peter’s very first TED Talk, recommended to him by biologist friend. Despite the fact that Peter’s background does not include advanced mathematical techniques, he was so enthralled that he spent the subsequent four hours sucked into the informative world of TED.

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The power of time off - Stefan Sagmeister, July 2009

Recommended by: Hamish Vallabh, Mobile Product Strategist

Designer Stefan Sagmeister explains that every seven years he closes his New York studio for a year-long sabbatical. During this sabbatical, he undertakes creative experiments and other pursuits that are difficult to accomplish during a regular working year. He also uses this time to refresh his creative outlook.

Hamish loves this talk because it explains the importance of taking time to reflect, re-energise and be inspired all over again - something that we often struggle to do in our busy, modern lives.

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Can we create new senses for humans? - David Eagleman, March 2015

Recommended by: Shaun Cullen, Marketing Assistant

In this mind bending talk, Eagleman begins by explaining that humans are bad at very large and very small scales, and we actually perceive very little of what’s out there.

He goes on to say that "your brain doesn’t know, and it doesn’t care, where it gets its’ data from", so tech could give us a little help. This talk will leave you in awe about what is possible for technology and humans right now - and in the (near) future. 

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My 12 pairs of legs - Aimee Mullins, February 2009

Recommended by: David Inkpen, Software Engineer

Despite having both legs amputated at birth, athlete Aimee Mullins showed from a young age that this wasn’t going to define her. She sees her body’s differences not as limits, but as an important opportunity, with her prosthetics as additions rather than replacements.

This inspiring talk focuses on reframing problems, and not being afraid to play and explore things that people may feel uncomfortable approaching. Aimee highlights the way children interact without fear of the ‘other’. Children treat her like a superhero - after all, Aimee can change her legs for any purpose.

Her limbs don’t just serve the purpose of mobility, but provide an outlet for poetry, design and innovation. Quite simply, Aimee is reimagining the capabilities of the human body.

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Tales of creativity and play - Tim Brown, May 2008

Recommended by: Marco Sousa, Senior Product Designer

Tim’s Creativity and Play talk is an excellent reminder that being serious about your work doesn't mean you have to be a robot, following imaginary rules lest your peers judge you.

Marco says that this talk reminds him that it’s paramount we break free of adulthood prejudices and allow ourselves and the people around us to explore ideas and create prototypes. Feeling secure and being reminded that playing and failing are normal will result in more accurate and faster problem solving.

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How to start a movement - Derek Sivers, February 2010

Recommended by: Pavel Balint, Test Engineer

In just three minutes, Derek Sivers explains how a ‘movement’ needs two people to begin - but it won’t become real until they have enough followers to reach the tipping point. He provides pointers on how to get to that stage, and reminds us all that it’s not just about being a good leader, but about being a good follower, too. This bitesize talk demonstrates the growth of a movement with a pretty hilarious example that will stick with you long after it’s over.

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Why we have too few women leaders - Sheryl Sandberg, December 2010

Recommended by: Christina Ohanian, QA Manager

This talk from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is one of Christina’s all-time favourites - partly because she delivers an elegant and co-ordinated talk in front of a large audience, simply by telling a story.


Secondly, her talk outlines the importance of strong and confident female leaders around the world, particularly in the tech industry. Cheryl talks about the need for women to find the strength and ability to break the rules and take more risks - something that inspires Christina herself every day. This is a must-see talk from an extraordinary woman and leader.

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Do schools kill creativity? - Sir Ken Robinson, February 2006

Recommended by: Juan Mediavilla, UX Designer

Juan has always believed that our current education system isn't evolving in line with modern life. Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk challenges our perceptions of education, arguing for a more flexible alternative that promotes creativity, rather than stifles it. In an agile, programmable world where we accept and learn from failures, we need an education system that instills that kind of thinking in future generations. Don’t be afraid to fail - and always be excited to learn.

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The first secret of design is ... noticing - Tony Fadell, March 2015

Recommended by: Ryan Murphy, Product Designer

Tony Fadell - the designer behind the iPod and founder of Nest - is a heavyweight in the world of design. When he speaks in this arena, it’s worth paying attention. A long-standing involvement in disruptive tech and a firm belief that design can be utilised to make things better, Fadell explains that while people characteristically believe things are ‘...the way they are’, they don’t have to be. He encourages us to stay beginners, think younger and stay curious, and he also stresses the importance of zooming out.

Keep looking with fresh eyes, you’ll be surprised at what you notice.

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We hope you find some inspiration from our favourite talks, tweet us @TheAppBusiness to let us know what your favourite TED Talks are.