TED Said...then spread

It all started off well. But then TED spread.

TED first came onto my radar in 2006 when Sir Ken Robinson made his moving, humorous, and influential 'Schools Kill Creativity' speech. Ideas worth spreading indeed. Since then the TED Talks have inspired and challenged me. A few of my own key ideas, decisions and actions in recent years have had their genesis in a couple of TED presentations.

TED is now very fashionable. "Did you see it?" "It was amazing." "Very Inspirational" The risk is that TED-hungry leaders, managers and decision makers will end up with the sort of 'doing it vicariously' effect which has gripped the world of would be cooks, singers, and overweight people.

The abundance of reality media means that many people who don't cook their own healthy food can now instead get some sort of solace from living vicariously through watching Jamie Oliver do so. It means that people who want to have an entertainment career can now instead live that dream vicariously through their favourite TV Idol contestant. Watching the Biggest Loser gives an easier sense of well-being than changing diet and exercise programmes for yourself.

Also add to this list: Vicarious parenting through watching Super Nanny and vicarious home improvement through watching Grand Designs.

We can become dumbed down and passive consumers of ideas, convincing ourselves that the 'hard' but good things to do are taken care of in our lives by watching someone else do them on TV.

So the now pervasive presence of TED videos, and live local iterations of TED events, offer us inspiration, opportunity and also risk. The risk of us becoming consumers of TED content rather than producers of new ideas. The risk of living vicarious creative lives through the TED presenters' lives.

Ask some fellow teachers, principals or other leaders about creative things they have done recently. If they respond by saying that they have watched a TED video start to worry. Watching TED is good for getting inspiration but it is not creativity on its own.

Produce don't consume. Force yourself to be able to list actions you have taken as a result of a dose of TED. If we don't make ourselves do this then, as leaders, we are no different to an obese person cheering on their favourite Biggest Loser contestant while sitting on the couch eating a bucket of wings. Watching Ken does not make you Ken.


  1. Where is the Like button when you need it on a friday night? A great laugh around a scary truth to end the week. I hadn't realised till now how I begin to tense when someone asks me if I have watched Sir Ken's TED talk (ok, some of the cringe is because it is a few years old now, but the rest....). Just do it, don't talk about it.
    However, I am the woman who 20+ years ago lay on the bed with my baby and watched Jane Fonda's post natal exercise video. The baby loved it and she is a very trim and fit young woman now :)

  2. @ Dorothy The difference is that Fonda's exercise video was designed to guide you through doing something as opposed to watching another mother do it. Instructional video vs. reality video.

  3. Does changing the way you tie your shoelaces count as action? Oh and showing others how to do same! That's the only TED talk I've watched of late.

    Word for the week = vicarious!!

  4. You are feeling kind tonight Mike - the truth is I never did JF - just watched :) Indeed, word of the week = vicarious!