TED Talks: Working Smart
13th March 2017
The phrase “work smarter, not harder” dates back to the 1930s, but it is just as relevant in the workplace as ever today. No matter how much effort you are putting into your job, if you are not smart about the way you work, it will all be for nothing. So to help you come up with your own methods and techniques for working smart, here are four TED Talks on the topic.
1 – What makes us feel good about our work? – Dan Ariely
Dan Ariely is a behavioural economist who transformed his field when he discovered that people are in fact not just motivated by money, or even just by happiness. Instead, Ariely argues in this talk that individuals need to feel a strong sense of progress in their lives in order to be fulfilled in their work. Once this has been achieved, work becomes more enjoyable and performance improves.
Ariely details two experiments that prove his thesis, and discusses what we as workers can take away from them to help us work smarter.
Standout quote: “When we think about labour, we usually think about motivation and payment as the same thing, but the reality is that we should probably add all kinds of things to it — meaning, creation, challenges, ownership, identity, pride, etc.”
2 – The happy secret to better work – Shawn Achor
Being productive makes us happy, right? Lively and animated psychologist Shawn Achor flips this paradigm on its head, and argues that we should strive for happiness first, and the productivity will come later.
Achor’s idea is as simple as it is radical: cheer yourself up before you work. This will give you what he calls a “happiness advantage.” If your brain is positive, says Achor, “it performs significantly better than at negative, neutral or stressed.” You are more intelligent, creative, and energetic. All of these things will lead to productivity.
Standout quote: “We’re finding it’s not necessarily the reality that shapes us, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality.”
3 – The difference between winning and succeeding – John Wooden
Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden knows a thing or two about achievement. He led his team to a record number of wins, but winning, he says, is about much more than success.
By Wooden’s definition, success is about personal achievement. If you are only trying to be better than somebody else, you will never succeed. Since you have no power over that other person’s (or business’) performance, whether or not you are better than them is completely out of your hands.
He also stresses the importance of patience. Yes, we have to keep changing for things to progress, but sometimes progress takes time. We shouldn’t get frustrated if we do not achieve our goals right away. Wooden has these tips and many more insights into the talk, all of them backed up by his incredible record.
Standout quote: “Never try to be better than someone else, always learn from others. Never cease trying to be the best you can be — that’s under your control.”
4 – Forget the pecking order at work – Margaret Heffernan
Margaret Heffernan begins her talk with the story of an evolutionary biology experiment. In the experiment, very productive “super-chickens” who laid the most eggs were put in one group together, while average chickens were put into a different group. Perhaps surprisingly, the “super-chicken” group ended in disaster, with the chickens fighting and pecking each other to death. The average group, meanwhile, flourished.
Heffernan suggests we can apply some of the lessons of this experiment to the workplace. She says the current way we work is far too close to the “super-chicken” model than it needs to be, with employees constantly trying to outdo each other and abiding by a “pecking” order.
Her solutions to this situation are as helpful as they are revolutionary. Working smart is not about individual stars, it is about the way people work together.
Standout quote: “It is only when we accept that everybody has value that we will liberate the energy and imagination and momentum we need to create the best beyond measure.”