Beyond the usual suspects: 10 work lessons from different walks of life

By Emma Koehn

May 29, 2017

Running your own operation or business unit is a complex process of people management and problem solving. Luckily, there are plenty of tools and lessons from across all industries that can be applied to the challenges you face each day.

Here are 10 TED Talks from different professions and industries that include insights to help you better manage whatever project you’re working on.

A Psychologist: how to make stress your friend

“How you think about stress matters … I no longer want to get rid of your stress, I want to make you better at stress.”

Psychologist Kelly McGonigal takes you through recent research into the physiological responses to stress, and suggests that if you reframe stressful situations as a necessary part of preparing your body for action, it can actually improve productivity while keeping you healthier.

A Mathematician: three ways to spot a bad statistic

“Once you change the scale, you can change the story.”

Business owners have no shortage of numbers to play with each day, but are they really equipped to understand the stats coming at them, both about the world and their businesses? Data journalist Mona Chalabi explains how to dig for more context in the numbers by retracing the steps of surveys and looking beyond the basics, like averages.

Not-for-profit founders: walking as a revolutionary act of self-care

“Our walking is for healing, for joy, for fresh air, quiet time, to connect and disconnect, to worship. But it’s also walking so we can be healthy enough to stand on the front lines for change in our communities.”

The creators of US health non-profit GirlTrek use this talk to discuss walking as a powerful political act, as well as one that can improve health and longevity in the long term. They discuss the importance of creating an enterprise that affects deep change in communities facing challenges, as well as the importance of preparing your body to work hard on goals that matter.

An Athlete: Serena Williams on Tennis, love and motherhood

“I hate to lose, but I think losing has brought me here today. The only reason I am who I am is because of my losses, and some of them are extremely painful, but I wouldn’t take any of them away, because every time I lose, it takes a really long time for me to lose again because I learn so much from it.”

The woman widely regarded as the greatest female athlete of all time also runs her own fashion company, is a seasoned media professional and brand ambassador. In this conversation she explains what motivates her success, including how winning is “super addictive”. But it’s not just a love of winning that’s pushed her forward — Williams says the pain and lessons from not getting what she wants have been just as valuable in her years of success.

A ‘Stranger Enthusiast’: why you should talk to strangers

“With a stranger, we have to start from scratch. We tell the whole story, we explain who the people are, how we feel about them; we spell out all the inside jokes. And guess what? Sometimes they do understand us a little better.”

Entrepreneurs have to be at peace with talking to countless people they’ve never met before, from pitching to investors to hiring new staff and networking. In this talk, Stark explains the value of the chance encounter and what everyone has to gain from just striking up a chat with the person waiting next to you at the traffic lights.

A comedian: the agony of trying to unsubscribe

In this short routine, comedian James Veitch delivers two important reminders about your customers: Firstly, that they often don’t want to be contacted, and secondly, that they can be very sophisticated in their responses when they find your approach to communications don’t work for them.

A physicist: can we prevent the end of the world?

“From now on, the worst dangers come from us. And it’s now not just the nuclear threat; in our interconnected world, network breakdowns can cascade globally; air travel can spread pandemics worldwide within days; and social media can spread panic and rumour literally at the speed of light. We fret too much about minor hazards…”

Physicist Martin Rees contends that the world has not come to terms with some of the catastrophic threats facing our world, and that more needs to go into solving these problems instead of worrying about more insignificant ones.

A Skeptic: why people believe weird things

Editor of Skeptic magazine Michael Shermer looks at why individuals are so willing to overlook the facts in favour of conspiracies. Learn how biases play a part in your customer’s decision making, and the value of scientists asking “what’s more likely?” when trying to solve problems.

An artist: embrace the shake

“Once I embraced the shake, I realised I could still make art. I just had to find a different approach to making the art that I wanted.”

Artist Phil Hansen explains how the discovery of permanent nerve damage that was causing his hand to shake had devastated him early in his career, until someone suggested he welcome the situation and use it to his advantage. This talk discusses the power of using what you’ve got, no matter what crosses your path.

An emergency responder: am I dying? The honest answer

“It‘s the littlest things, the littlest moments, the littlest things you brought into the world that give you peace in those final moments.”
Emergency health worker Matthew O’Reilly discusses the importance of honesty and human connection in this talk, explaining what influences his answer when patients ask him if they are going to die.

In their final moments individuals are most worried about remembrance, connection and forgiveness, he says, suggesting these are the most important things to keep front of mind throughout your life.

This article was first published by our sister-publication, SmartCompany.

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