5 inspirational TED talks to help reimagine your career

Listening is a virtue, knowledge is power. Prick up your ears to these TEDx talks by kick-ass women, ahead of IMAGE’s inaugural Business Summit this November 18-19

Sheryl Sandberg: Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders

If you’ve only ever watched one TED talk in your life, it’s probably this. Ten years old (!!!), Sheryl Sandberg’s speech proved seminal for this Facebook COO, who went on to write a book about women “leaning in” to business and set up the philanthropic Lean In Foundation. Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders struck a chord with female workers struggling to manage work/life responsibilities, and offered reasons why. In the years since, her reputation has become sullied somewhat by the Cambridge Analytica scandal and alleged Russian interference of the 2016 US election. Still, Facebook ethics aside, many women across the globe have claimed her speech to be life-changing, while gender equality is as relevant as ever.


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Patty McCord: Lessons on Building a Company People Enjoy Working For

One for employers, but also employees, to understand what they ought to be pressing for: Patty McCord’s short (five mins) TED talk from 2019 offers eight lessons to help improve company culture. McCord served as Netflix’s chief talent officer for 14 years, where she helped create the Netflix Culture Deck, a widely distributed HR handbook that effectively tosses out previous HR handbooks and is cited by Sandberg as “the most important document ever to come out of Silicon Valley.” Key points include empowering staff with entrustment, offering them honest and continuous feedback (as opposed to yearly reviews), and encouraging cross-departmental transparency.

Amanda Palmer: The Art of Asking

The alt punk polymath may not be the first person that springs to mind when it comes to career advice. But make no mistake: Amanda Palmer is the master of teamwork. In this beautifully presented 2013 oration, the bodacious American singer/songwriter introduces the simple act of asking for help as a means of building one’s tribe, trading skills and nurturing trust, referencing her former life earning money as a street statue early in her music career. Her use of crowdfunding is as legendary as her couch (and crowd) surfing, becoming the first musician to raise more than a million dollars on Kickstarter in 2012 and using Patreon to help fund her records, tours, podcasts and talks. “I didn’t make them, I asked them,” she says of her fans’ support that ranges from the fiscal to the emotional, countering perceived shame of calling for help. If you like the cut of her gib, read her eponymous book from 2013. 


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Sarah Lewis: Embrace the Near Win

Art historian Sarah Lewis compellingly explores the archer’s paradox that “in order to hit the target, your aim has to be slightly askew.” Mastery, she says, is a constant pursuit unlike success, which is fleeting and ultimately meaningless unless you can achieve it over and over again – which is fundamentally impossible. For artists, athletes, inventors and explorers, you’re only as good as your next project, and the Near Win as a concept is why Orson Welles didn’t stop making films after Citizen Kane, Dolly Parton didn’t stop at Jolene and James Joyce didn’t stop baffling readers after Ulysses: they each strived to do better next time. If we can apply this to our working life and care less about the sum of our efforts’ parts, we are winning at losing, suggests Lewis. You got that, Donald Trump?

Ruth Chang: How to Make Hard Choices

Thanks to coronavirus, many people have seen their jobs entirely restructured or made redundant altogether. Career crossroads have never been more perplexing and although Ruth Chang’s How to Make Hard Choices is now six years old, it may help quell current workplace anxieties. She should know. Soon after finishing Harvard Law School and diving into the legal world, Chang regretted her decision and switched paths to become a philosopher via Oxford University. This talk investigates the notion of value; of what cannot be quantified empirically but is nonetheless instrumental when it comes to making difficult decisions and taking agency over them.


Dr Anne Marie Imafidon: Let’s Save the World – with Girl-led Startups

A child prodigy at the age of 11, being the first girl in the UK to pass A-level computing before receiving her Master’s degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Oxford aged 20, Imafidon is a prime example of paying it forward in the STEM sector. Here, she muses what the world might be like if women had written the Bible or female venture capitalists had dominated tech startups, in addition to celebrating unsung “Stemettes” (the word coined for her social initiative supporting young females in science, tech, engineering and maths). So if you’re a parent of daughters who have an inkling for “doing humanity a favour”, heed Imafidon’s advice to let them not only think outside the box but to smash it.

The IMAGE Business Summit 2020, in partnership with PwC, takes place on November 18-19. Get your (virtual) seat alongside some of the world’s leading business figures, for two days of powerful discussions, interviews and masterclasses. Get tickets

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