Home Professionalisms 10 TED Talks Every Team Should Watch

10 TED Talks Every Team Should Watch


While individual achievement can be great, sometimes it takes some serious teamwork to get things done, from winning a game to completing a client project on time. Unfortunately, working in a team comes with its own host of challenges, as sometimes egos clash and not everyone is on the same page when it comes to work ethic.

No matter what your personal challenges are, it’s important to remind yourself why working in a team can be the best way to go and also to learn some new ways you can improve the group dynamic and get more out of your team effort.

These TED talks offer a little bit of both, exploring the power of collaboration and offering tips and tools for better communication, productivity, and more.

  1. Tom Wujec: Build a tower, build a team.

    Team-building activities can go a long way toward helping your team learn to work as a cohesive group. In this talk, Wujec showcases some surprising research into the “marshmallow problem,” an exercise where teams have to work together to build the tallest tower out of spaghetti, tape, and a single marshmallow. The teams that are the best at putting together the structures might surprise you, and the results expose some of the problems that many teams face in the modern workplace, especially in business.

  2. Howard Rheingold: The new power of collaboration.

    One of the biggest sites of collaboration in recent years has been the web, most specifically the social web. Here, Howard Rheingold talks about how these digital collaborative settings are really just outgrowths of our own natural instinct to work in a group. It’s an enlightening look at the role of teamwork in human society and how that role is changing as new technologies evolve, both useful to know more about when you’re trying to get a diverse group of employees to work together on a modern problem.

  3. Steven Johnson: Where good ideas come from.

    In this talk, Steven Johnson discredits the idea that great ideas happen simply in one moment of genius with individuals working alone. Instead, he shows how places like coffeehouses and other collective environments help contribute to and foster great ideas and creativity. It might just help you create a space in your office that can yield similar results among team members, using a positive environment to promote more “eureka” moments.

  4. Deborah Gordon: The emergent genius of ant colonies.

    Ants are nature’s ultimate example of teamwork, with each ant fulfilling a role within the colony so that it functions as a coherent, stable whole. In reality, businesses aren’t all that different, as Deborah Gordon explains, sharing her research into the complex systems of the insect world and how they can be applied to humans who also have to work in teams to survive.

  5. Rachel Botsman: The case for collaborative consumption.

    Rachel Botsman argues in this talk that humans are hard-wired to share, a trait which has helped to push forward the rise of collaborative consumption (think businesses like Zipcar and Swaptree). Leaders and team members can use this lecture as inspiration for developing their own forms of collaborative consumption, each bringing what they have to the table and sharing for the benefit of the whole group.

  6. Susan Cain: The power of introverts.

    The business world often values workers who are outgoing and outspoken, but as you’ll learn in this talk, they may be ignoring the many valuable gifts that more introverted employees have to offer. Whether you’re an introvert yourself or are trying to more fully engage your entire team, this lecture will help you learn to appreciate and encourage the talents of all personality types.

  7. Steven Pinker: What our language habits reveal.

    Are you saying more to your team members than you realize? This lecture from renowned academic Steven Pinker explains how the words we choose to express our ideas can reveal more than we intend, an important reminder for leaders and employees for whom communication is an essential part of the job.

  8. Jason Fried: Why work doesn’t happen at work.

    Ever wonder why so little work happens in your office? It could be the workplace itself that’s the problem. As Jason Fried shares, most offices aren’t really conducive to getting work done. Listen and learn as he explains how to create a place where all the members of your team can actually do the work they’re there to do.

  9. Baba Shiv: Sometimes it’s good to give up the driver’s seat.

    Being the boss can be a great thing, but sometimes it’s a good idea to give up the driver’s seat and let someone else take charge. In this talk, business expert Baba Shiv explains why having too many choices and too much power can be a bad thing, which may just encourage you to let other members of the team take over once in awhile.

  10. Clay Shirky: Institutions vs. collaboration.

    This talk, given in 2005, explores how collaboration in business is changing, replacing closed groups with more open, fluid networks. Today, we’re seeing many of those changes come to pass, which makes this talk on the future of collaboration an essential primer for anyone working in this kind of setting looking to maximize the benefits of teamwork.


This article was first posted in Online MBA.