10 Best TED Talks for the Data-Minded

May 31, 2016

You don’t have to dig too deep into the archives of TED to find something wholly interesting and inspiring. So today I thought I’d present to you some of our favorite TED Talks on life, leadership, and data. They're all short enough to gobble in one sitting, or spread them out and save some goodness when you need a little injection of inspiration.

On Data Love

These talks will whet your appetite for some of the amazing capabilities with data.

Related: 3 Stages of Becoming a Data-Driven Organization

1. Aaron Koblin: Visualizing ourselves ... with crowd-sourced data

You'll love this talk if: You love seeing data come to life in stunning data visualizations.

"Artist Aaron Koblin takes vast amounts of data — and at times vast numbers of people — and weaves them into stunning visualizations. From elegant lines tracing airline flights to landscapes of cell phone data, from a Johnny Cash video assembled from crowd-sourced drawings to the "Wilderness Downtown" video that customizes for the user, his works brilliantly explore how modern technology can make us more human."

2. David McCandless: The beauty of data visualization

You'll love this talk if: You want to see real-world examples of how simple data visualization techniques go a long way in telling a better story with data.

"David McCandless turns complex data sets (like worldwide military spending, media buzz, Facebook status updates) into beautiful, simple diagrams that tease out unseen patterns and connections. Good design, he suggests, is the best way to navigate information glut — and it may just change the way we see the world."

3. R. Luke DuBois: Insightful human portraits made from data

You'll love this talk if: You love the intersection between hard data and fascinating art.

"Artist R. Luke DuBois makes unique portraits of presidents, cities, himself and even Britney Spears using data and personality. In this talk, he shares nine projects — from maps of the country built using information taken from millions of dating profiles to a gun that fires a blank every time a shooting is reported in New Orleans. His point: the way we use technology reflects on us and our culture, and we reduce others to data points at our own peril."

On Decision-Making

These talks will inspire you to make decisions that matter, both with data and with your heart.

Related: The Better BI Strategy

4. Shonda Rhimes: My year of saying yes to everything

You'll love this talk if: You're looking for the joy in work and the important balance between that work and life's other critical junctures.

"Shonda Rhimes, the titan behind Grey's Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder, is responsible for some 70 hours of television per season, and she loves to work. "When I am hard at work, when I am deep in it, there is no other feeling," she says. She has a name for this feeling: The hum. The hum is a drug, the hum is music, the hum is God's whisper in her ear. But what happens when it stops? Is she anything besides the hum? In this moving talk, join Rhimes on a journey through her "year of yes" and find out how she got her hum back."

5. Sebastian Wernicke: How to use data to make a hit TV show

You'll love this talk if: You're fascinated with how data shapes decisions in ways we might not consider and why sometimes it also takes a little human head and heart to come to the right choice.

"Does collecting more data lead to better decision-making? Competitive, data-savvy companies like Amazon, Google and Netflix have learned that data analysis alone doesn't always produce optimum results. In this talk, data scientist Sebastian Wernicke breaks down what goes wrong when we make decisions based purely on data — and suggests a brainier way to use it."

6. Tim Urban: Inside the mind of a master procrastinator

You'll love this talk if: You're a fan of Wait But Why and want a sneak peek into the zany mind of Tim Urban and his decision-making process.

"Tim Urban knows that procrastination doesn't make sense, but he's never been able to shake his habit of waiting until the last minute to get things done. In this hilarious and insightful talk, Urban takes us on a journey through YouTube binges, Wikipedia rabbit holes and bouts of staring out the window — and encourages us to think harder about what we're really procrastinating on, before we run out of time."

7. Sheena Iyengar: How to make choosing easier

You'll love this talk if: You're interested harnessing the psychology behind how the human mind makes decisions to create better buying options for your customers.

"We all want customized experiences and products — but when faced with 700 options, consumers freeze up. With fascinating new research, Sheena Iyengar demonstrates how businesses (and others) can improve the experience of choosing."

On Courage to Act

These talks will motivate you rise to your potential as a leader -- in the boardroom and throughout life.

Related: 10 Best Practices to Maximize the Value of your BI Project

8. Drew Dudley: Everyday leadership

You'll love this talk if: You need a little reminder of how important your everyday actions actually are in the grand scheme of leadership and life. You might be someone's leader without even knowing it.

"We have all changed someone’s life — usually without even realizing it. In this funny talk, Drew Dudley calls on all of us to celebrate leadership as the everyday act of improving each other’s lives."

9. Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action

You'll love this talk if: You're looking for practical and inspirational ways to motivate your team around a common goal.

"Simon Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership — starting with a golden circle and the question "Why?" His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers ..."

10. Ric Elias: 3 things I learned while my plane crashed

You'll love this talk if: You need a quick reminder of the most important things in life.

"Ric Elias had a front-row seat on Flight 1549, the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson River in New York in January 2009. What went through his mind as the doomed plane went down? At TED, he tells his story publicly for the first time"