Blog | Robert Davis 12.08.17

Four TED talks to guide change

From leading to listening, hear from the innovators driving real change.

At PJA we’ve been talking about change a lot lately. We’re working with clients to focus their brands on driving the changes in their market that matter most to their business. (We’ve got a method we call Branding for Change to help them do it.) And we’re talking with our own people and partners about continually innovating the way we develop and deliver engaging brand experiences.

In this post, I’ve decided to let someone else do the talking. Where better to start than with some of my favorite change-related TED talks? Check out my curated list of “TED talks to inspire and guide brand change.”

Can you hear the opportunity for change?

While the best brands have really gotten good at listening to the market to help them innovate the product, most aren’t as clear about the external forces that could slow down adoption. It seems that even the best listeners can use help deciding what they should be listening for.

“This is a serious problem that we're losing our listening. This is not trivial, because listening is our access to understanding. Conscious listening always creates understanding... A world where we don't listen to each other at all is a very scary place indeed.”

Julian Treasure is a sound and communication expert, and founder of audio-branding company The Sound Agency. In this quick eight minute TED talk recorded in 2011, Julian will challenge you to learn how to listen better – and provide five quick exercises to help you do it. Have a listen. (Couldn’t resist.)

Find the opportunities in change you can’t control

There’s change you initiate proactively, and then there are the changes you see looming in the rearview mirror – like the horde of robots seemingly coming for our jobs. Luckily for us, David Lee has some good ideas about how we might think about the changes that sneak up on us more as opportunities than threats. David brings his unique background as an innovator to a conversation that often leans more toward the apocalyptic than the helpful:

“…we have to start creating new jobs that are less centered on the tasks that a person does and more focused on the skills that a person brings to work. For example, robots are great at repetitive and constrained work, but human beings have an amazing ability to bring together capability with creativity when faced with problems that we've never seen before. It's when every day brings a little bit of a surprise that we have designed work for humans and not for robots.”

David is VP of Innovation at UPS, and his talk was recorded as part of TEDs partnership with UPS to create TED UPS – a great example of how brands can team up with influential partners to drive change. Clocking in at ten minutes, his talk is a fresh voice in the conversation about our future robotic overlords.

Choosing the right ways to lead change

Jim Hemerling is a Senior Partner and Managing Director at the Boston Consulting Group. As a leader in BCG’s People & Organization and Transformation practice, he works to develop effective transformation plans for all kinds of businesses. Increasingly, he sees the backdrop for business as an environment in constant change – and he’s been thinking about that means for leaders:

“Let’s acknowledge that change is hard. People naturally resist change, especially when it’s imposed on them. But there are things that organizations do that make change even harder and more exhausting for people than it needs to be. First of all, leaders often wait too long to act.”

Drawing examples from business to basketball, Jim packs a masterclass on leading through change into 13 minutes.

Looking at change with fresh eyes

We like to think our experience improves our judgement, and helps get to answers more quickly – but sometimes, innovation and the energy to pursue change benefits from the wide-eyed innocence of a beginner, or at the very least, the “beginner’s mind.” As a young teen, Ashton Cofer can’t help but bring a fresh perspective to old challenges, sometimes with unintended results.

“No, this wasn't my family's dinner on fire. This was my science project. Flames were pouring out, smoke was in the air and it looked like our wooden deck was about to catch fire. I immediately started yelling. My mom was freaking out, my dad ran around to put out the fire and of course my sister started recording a Snapchat video.”

In the end, Ashton and his science fair team created change that could improve all of our lives – because they were willing to take on a problem the experienced adults had given up on. At just six minutes, his TED talk is a wake-up call for us grizzled pros who think we have all the answers.

How has TED inspired you?

I love swapping TED talks. Leave a comment or tweet me (@heyrobertdavis) with your favorites, and include #brandforchange.