Creative Internet

8 TED Talks That Will Help Unlock Your Creative Potential

Mihir Patkar 03-09-2015

TED Talks are one of the best resources for educational videos that expand your mind 5 Websites to Watch Educational Videos That Will Expand Your Mind Watching videos is a fun and entertaining way to pass the time. If we were to watch every video available online, we could spend a lifetime. If you want to do more with your valuable... Read More . Often, the speakers at these conferences are people from a creative background, and through their short speeches, you can learn how to tap the creativity in you.


When rounding up these talks, we decided not to go for creativity talks about passion and inspiration 4 Must-See TED Talks On Creativity, Inspiration & Passion Creativity. Inspiration. Passion. These are all concepts of which we are very much aware, but not many of us can precisely pinpoint their source. Where does creativity come from? What is it that causes a... Read More . We wanted to focus on practicality — something which doesn’t just inspire you, but also helps you take action. Here are our picks for the best TED Talks on being a creative.

How to Build Your Creative Confidence

  • Speaker: David Kelley (Educator and Founder of IDEO)
  • Runtime: 12 minutes
  • When: March 2012

If you think you aren’t the creative type, if you think creativity is something people are born with or not, then this is the most important talk you’ll see in your life.

Even if you skip everything else in this article, take 12 minutes to hear David Kelley talk about how fear holds back the creativity within all of us, how to get over that fear through renowned psychologist Albert Bandura’s theory of “Guided Mastery”, and how it can change your life entirely.

It’s such a soul-searching speech that you probably should download this TED talk 2 Ways To Easily Download TED Videos To Your Desktop If any video site that gets talked about most after YouTube, its TED – at least amongst us who seek knowledge for the sake of it. Now, who wouldn’t want to preserve these idea capsules... Read More and watch it once a day.

Why It’s Practical: Kelley’s talk is inspiring enough to actually make you break out of your shell and face your creative fears, whether it’s getting started or whether it’s pushing yourself into trying something you aren’t comfortable with. Creativity is about pushing boundaries. Kelley will take you there.


Tales of Creativity and Play

  • Speaker: Tim Brown (CEO of IDEO)
  • Runtime: 28 minutes
  • When: May 2008

Another IDEO man, Tim Brown’s talk features high in this list because there are two exercises he conducts in the talk which are essential to breaking out of self-censorship. Brown says your worst critic is you — we all have a desire to be original, an apprehension to offend, and a tendency for self-editing.

To illustrate these, Brown conducts two tests. We won’t spoil them, but just know that you’ll need a piece of paper and a pencil, and ideally you should be watching this talk with someone else around you.

Why It’s Practical: Brown’s talk emphasizes how creativity can be harnessed through a playful atmosphere. He cites several examples of “playing” that actually benefit in thinking out of the box.

Trial, Error, and the God Complex

One of the intrinsic problems with creativity is that, since you have to put your heart and soul into it, you treat it as your baby — your way is the right way and suggestions otherwise aren’t exactly welcome.


Harford’s talk focuses on this God Complex, an inability to think that your way might not be the best way. Through several examples, Harford shows how a process of trial and error helps in coming up with creative thoughts whereas the God Complex keeps you stuck in one line of thinking.

Why It’s Practical: While not intended as a course in handling criticism, that’s what Harford’s talk ends up being. The ability to listen to people challenge your opinion and your work, and then to build upon that with trial and error, is an important component in any creative endeavor.

4 Lessons in Creativity

Julie Burstein spoke with a lot of creative individuals while researching her book, and she came up with four key takeaways from the process. In many ways, the focal point of these lessons lies in how to open up your creative eye — the eye which we often close as we go through our daily lives.

There is beauty in struggle, there is beauty in flaws, there is beauty in the everyday moments around us. It is difficult to extricate yourself from the insular world of things that affect you, but Burstein shows how it can be done using famous artists as examples.


Why It’s Practical: The story of photographer Joel Meyerowitz is particularly powerful because of how much it drills in the idea of “work”. Often a creative pursuit seems like an intellectual exercise, but Meyerowitz’s example shows how the work triumphs over the thought.

Play This Game to Come Up With Original Ideas

  • Speaker: Shimpei Takahashi (Toy Designer)
  • Runtime: 6 minutes
  • When: May 2013

Have you ever heard of a toothbrush that’s also a guitar? As you brush, you’re playing a tune! Rock on!

Shimpei Takahashi’s job is to dream up such new and wonderful toys, but his boss hounds him for data-driven ideas. Data ended up killing Takahashi’s creativity until he finally found a resolution: a brainstorming game called Shiritori, which is basically a simple exercise to get your creative juices flowing.

Note: The talk is in Japanese, but with subtitles. You might be tempted to cheat and read the interactive transcript alone, but don’t. Takahashi’s presentation is important to the talk, so watch it, don’t read it.


Why It’s Practical: As Takahashi explains, when you come up with a list of random words, you start seeing images in your head. The images of those words end up forming a connection in your brain, and odd connections later lead to great ideas, whether consciously or subconsciously.

Embrace the Remix

All creative people have to face the hurdle of originality at one point or another. After all, the simplest definition of creativity is to come up with something original — something which has never been done before. Kirby Ferguson, by citing acclaimed modern creative thinkers, busts this idea open.

“Our creativity comes from without, not from within. We are not self-made. We are dependent on one another, and admitting this to ourselves isn’t an embrace of mediocrity and derivativeness. It’s a liberation from our misconceptions, and it’s an incentive to not expect so much from ourselves and to simply begin.”

Why It’s Practical: Creative blocks are perhaps the biggest problem for artists. Ferguson drills down the message that several accomplished artists exemplify: you need to first do something before you can judge whether it’s actually creative or not. Often, it’s in the process of actually doing that you discover true creativity.

Become a Now-ist

  • Speaker: Joi Ito (Director of MIT Media Lab)
  • Runtime: 10 minutes
  • When: March 2014

Creative thinking is often seen as an exploration of the future or the unknown. How will things be in another five years? How do you make art which is timeless and appreciated by generations to come? Heck, robots may even be the artists of the future It's Happening: Robots May Be The Creative Artists Of The Future No machine or piece of software can emulate the passion of an artist, right? Wrong, sort of. Human creativity is important, but — sorry guys — the robots are coming for you too. Read More .

This quest for future-proofing is actually stifling creative thinking, at least according to Joi Ito, and this coming from someone who heads one of the most innovation-friendly technological research environments on the planet today. Ito stresses the importance of making things for the now, not the future.

Why It’s Practical: Ito’s talk is probably the most practical approach to creative thinking as he puts a premium on simplicity. His approach to creativity is to disregard complex planning and instead focus on being connected to the present.

How I Started Writing Songs Again

  • Speaker: Sting (Singer and Songwriter)
  • Runtime: 23 minutes
  • When: March 2014

Writer’s block? Even accomplished creative individuals like singer-songwriter Sting struggle with it.

In this talk, Sting recounts how he was unable to write for years, staring at a blank page every day, and kept wondering if his best work was behind him. It took some time to regain creative motivation after burnout How to Regain Creative Motivation After You've Burned Out Writers aren't the only ones who suffer from "creative block". What can you do to rekindle your creative fire? Here are five easy things you can try. Read More , but in that time, Sting found perhaps the strongest force in writing, which was finally able to get him over his block: empathy.

Why It’s Practical: The “write what you know” paradigm only goes so far. After a point, your personal experiences dry out, so where does expression come from? Sting explains how empathy can broaden your perspective and give you new ideas to express. Give a voice to someone without a voice, as he poetically puts it.

Share Your Favorite Creative Talk

TED has 135 talks on creativity and we obviously couldn’t include them all here, and there are plenty more when it comes to motivation and inspiration 10 Motivational TED Talks To Help You Chip Away At Your Mental Blocks The valuable lesson from the lives of achievers is that they chip away at their mental blocks more consistently than others. Ten TED Talks underscore one simple thing – it’s all in the mind. Read More .

But we want to know which ones are your favorites. If you had to pick one video about creativity — not necessarily from TED — which would it be and why? Tell us in the comments below!

Image Credits:Colored splashes by Jag_cz via Shutterstock

Related topics: Creativity, Inspiration, Motivation, TED Talks.

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