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How Data is Changing the World of Work: 5 TED Talks

I occasionally get a bit preachy about data. That’s an acknowledgement, if not an apology. I’m passionate about data’s potential. And this passion often comes across in the workshops, training and talks I give. But I’ve also come to see this passion as a double-edged sword. I tend to connect more with the people that are smiling or nodding. Partly for encouragement, because I get anxious about public speaking, and partly because I tend to be a bit eager to please.

But, as more skilful advocates will be aware, it’s important to maintain rationale arguments alongside the energy. In particular to persuade those in the room that might feel less enthused about data, or may even be sceptical about its impact.

That’s why I put together this collection of my favourite data themed talks from TED. For the sceptical – who deserve soundly reasoned explanations for how data is changing the world for the better. For data advocates – who want inspiration, ideas and stories they can share. For my own reassurance – that data is indeed something to feel passionate about.

1. Big Data is Better Data

First, up The Economist’s Data Editor, Kenneth Cukier, explains why data is in the ascendancy and explores how new technologies are helping us exploit data as a resource. He also considers some of the potential risks involved.


2. The Upside of Data

How do we actually get anything useful from data? Jessica Donohue offers four lessons for how to take data to useful knowledge, and harness insights that make a difference.


3. The Year Open Data Went Worldwide

Open data (data anyone can access, use and share for any purpose) is one of the key catalysts of the collaborative, data economy. Why? Well, in just 5 minutes, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the web and co-founder of The Open Data Institute, explains how data becomes more powerful when it’s shared openly, using the web, so that people around the world can find new insights, build new things and work collaboratively. If you doubt the impact of data, and open data in particular, watch until the end.


4. Your Company’s Data Could Help Save Lives

Picking up from Tim’s talk, how does data deliver social value? Mallory Soldner explains how data is helping feed more people, for less money. And how academia, NGOs and businesses can work together to make things work even better.

[ps I’m not being impertinent, but I feel able to call Sir Tim, ‘Tim” because, humblebrag alert, I used to work for him at the Open Data Institute. Didn’t stop me acting like a fanboy and being all goofy in his presence. Which made board meetings awkward…]


5. The Human Insights Missing from Big Data

Finally, for anyone worried that combined, machines and data will supersede our unique ability to generate ideas, Tricia Wang explains how the best insights come when we work together.


There are, of course, loads more great talks out there on TED and on other platforms.  Tweet us your faves @mymissiondrive.