March 25, 2014 Kate Bristow

What I Learned at TED 2014

Last week at TED2014, we had the opportunity to participate in almost one hundred talks, from the 18-minute main stage talks to four-minute shorter versions, on topics ranging from suicide, transgender acceptance, girls’ education and autism to bionics, space exploration, satellites, microbes, bio-mimicry and the right to privacy. While the five days covered more topics than a good college education, what stood out was the importance of Brutal Simplicity of Thought. Given the sheer volume, it is almost impossible to recall the content of each and every one of these talks. The ones that stand out are the talks that make a single, powerful point, often without visual aids. These talks resonate because they typically tap into a universal truth, perception or belief, and either challenge or build on it to produce something simple yet memorable.

As these talks are edited and released online over the course of the next few weeks and months, it can take some time until the full impact of TED2014 is felt in the wider world. Here are my favorite talks that are already available on

There is no problem so bad that you can’t make it worse.

Chris Hadfield, the commander of the International Space Station, who shot to internet fame after his rendition of David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ went viral, spoke of facing fear. Going blind on a space walk might be the worst thing you can imagine happening, but Chris offered insights on how to conquer any fear, terrestrial or otherwise:

Why is my daughter so strong?” Yousafzai asks. “Because I didn’t clip her wings.

Another kind of courage was displayed by Ziauddin Yousafzai, father of the youthful activist Malala, who talked of why girls must be allowed to be educated. When asked why his daughter was so strong, he replies, “Because I didn’t clip her wings.” Simple and memorable answer to how to raise a confident child:

We don’t have to give up our privacy to have good government. We don’t have to give up our liberty to have security.

The discussion of the week was between Edward Snowden who appeared on the TED stage via robot (and then prowled the halls of the conference center afterwards) and the deputy director of the NSA Richard Ledgett, who was asked to deliver a response later in the week. Privacy versus national security? You decide.

Talks to look out for over the next few months:

Avi Reichental on made-to-measure 3D printing that is transforming things like knee replacements, and Hugh Herr on a new breed of biohybrid smart prostheses. Hugh’s talk was without a doubt the emotional high-point of the week:

How 3D printing will turn us all (back) into makers

A first dance, on a next-generation bionic limb

Del Harvey on trust and safety (and scale) on Twitter, and Jennifer Senior on the rise of over-parenting:

How to keep 240 million Twitter users safe

Simon Sinek on how great leaders inspire, and Mellody Hobson on why we need to become color-brave as opposed to color-blind.

Leadership is about making others feel safe

Be color brave, not color blind

Take a moment, watch, listen, reflect, and consider how a few simple ideas just may change the world.

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About the Author

Kate Bristow
Kate Bristow After graduating from New College, Oxford, with an MA Honors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, Kate started her career in London, working at Saatchi & Saatchi. In 1996, she re-joined Maurice and Charles at M&C Saatchi Singapore as Director of Strategic Planning, moving to M&C Saatchi LA in 2003. Along the way she has been instrumental in the strategic development of many global brands including BMW, Coca Cola, Whirlpool, HP, P&G, Mars, and Tourism Australia.

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