Top 10 TED Talks for Insight on Curiosity

Curiosity has been linked in engagement, emotional intelligence, communication, motivation, creativity, innovation, productivity and more.  As part of research for Cracking the Curiosity Code, combing through TED talks was a fascinating way to review some important research into the area of curiosity.  The following includes some highlights from some of the most insightful talks that inspire and educate regarding the importance of curiosity.

  1. In Adam Grant’s TED Talk (The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers), he studies people he calls originals, who speak up and drive creativity and change in the world.
    • People are afraid of failing, but these successful people are more afraid of failing to try.
    • Our biggest regrets are our inactions. Eight-five percent of people will not speak up because they are afraid of looking stupid.
    • The greatest originals are the ones who fail the most because they try the most.
  2. In Chris Anderson’s TED Talk (Questions No One Knows the Answers To), he explains how we need to focus on the questions we don’t know the answers to in the world.
    • We thought someday we might be told the answer to some of the hardest questions.
    • Asking questions might be the most important things. Answers can be awe-inspiring.
    • The quest for knowledge and the more we know, the more we get pulled forward. So … stay curious!
  3. In Stuart Firestein’s TED Talk (The Pursuit of Ignorance), he explains that we should value what we don’t know.
    • Our ignorance grows with knowledge, so knowledge generates ignorance.
    • We use knowledge to come up with higher quality ignorance.
    • What we don’t know makes for a good question.
  4. In Psychiatrist Judson Brewer’s TED Talk (A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit), he said we can break bad habits by being more curious about them.
    • What if instead of fighting our brains, we tapped into our natural reward process by becoming curious.
    • Mindfulness training focused on being curious about what it is like when they do a behavior that was bad behavior.
    • By being curiously aware when we do things like smoking, we see the ugly side of it.
  5. In Emilie Wapnick’s TED Talk (Why Some of Us Don’t Have One True Calling), she addressed the question of what do you want to be when you grow up and the anxiety it produces.
    • The question of “what do you want to be when you grow up” starts to keep us up at night and doesn’t help us focus on all that we can be because it forces us to focus and choose.
    • The notion of a narrowly focused life is big in our culture.
    • We are told we need to figure out our one thing and devote our lives to it. What if there are a lot of things you are curious about?
  6. In Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk (Do Schools Kill Curiosity), which he gave more than a decade ago, he explained children have a great capacity for innovation.
    • He contends that creativity is as important in education as literacy.
    • Kids are not frightened of being wrong. We educate people out of their capacities.
    • Companies stigmatize mistakes. If you are not prepared to be wrong, you will not come up with anything original.
  7. In Hill Bolte Taylor’s TED Talk (My Stroke of Insight), she asked the question about the biological differences between normal brains or brains with certain disorders.
    • She woke up one morning with a broken blood vessel that impacted her ability to walk, talk, read, or recall any of her life.
    • She explores how that changed her perception of life.
    • The choices we make to embrace parts of our brains can influence whom we choose to be.
  8. In Brene Brown’s TED Talk (The Power of Vulnerability), she discusses human connections and our ability to empathize, belong, and love.
    • Her research showed her the importance of vulnerability.
    • She learned we numb vulnerability, but we cannot selectively just numb the bad stuff.
    • If we numb, we numb everything including the good stuff.
  9. In Carol Dweck’s TED Talk (The Power of Believing That You Can Improve), she shared information she gathered from researching the growth mindset.
    • She wanted to see how children coped with challenge and difficulty.
    • Some loved the challenge. They had a growth mindset.
    • Other students had a more fixed mindset. They felt judged and failed.
  10. In Tim Ferris’s TED Talk (Smash Fear, Learn Anything), he addresses how one question, “what is the worst that could happen?”, is all you need to learn anything.
    • He teaches what it takes to learn things like swimming, languages, and ballroom dancing.
    • He likes to deconstruct things that scare him.
    • We are held back by false constructs and untested assumptions.


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