I have been watching TED Talks for several years.  In fact, I often spend Sunday mornings with TED.  Given the popularity of these videos, I am continually surprised at the number of people I meet who have never heard of TED.  Though there are many videos I watch repeatedly, I did my best to distill the list down to my 10 favorites.  For those of you who are not familiar with TED Talks, please immerse yourself and consider starting with the list below.  If you are familiar, please share your favorites.  It remains a career goal of mine to deliver my own TED Talk and to facilitate the first TED conference for the Information Dominance Corps and/or Cryptologic Community.

Leading Tribes (Seth Godin) – This talk really is the foundation of my approach to serving as a change agent.  I have shared it many times over the years and even made it “required viewing” for the team that wrote the Cryptologic Community Foundational Principles prior to putting pen to paper.  It meant the world to me to have the Sailors of my last command give me a going away present with this quote “A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, connected to an idea.”  I was leaving the command, but I wasn’t leaving the tribe we built.  Who are you connecting?  What status quo are you challenging?  What culture are you building?  Are you truly committed to your tribe?  Will you be missed when you leave your team?  Watch this video and build your tribe!

How Great Leaders Inspire (Simon Sinek) – This video was also required watching prior to kicking off the Foundational Principles work.  Most of us are guilty of attempting to define WHAT we will do, HOW we will do it, and WHO will do it, before we truly explore the WHY that should be serving as the foundation for our actions.  This talk and the corresponding book gave me reason to pause and always Start With Why.  Please make it a point to continually question WHY.  Not because we are skeptical or disloyal, but because we are curious and care enough to truly understand WHY.  WHY we do something is far more meaningful than WHAT we do.

Bring on the Learning Revolution (Sir Ken Robinson) – I’ve spent over 21 years of my life going to school and I’ve spent more than 20 years in the Navy.  I work in  a field that requires a great deal of critical and creative thought as we work to solve problems, analyze data, and identify opportunities.  We do this in large part with young men and women who went to school where they were told what to think, boot camp where they were told what to do, and placed in an hierarchical organization where they are defined by their rank.  We then encourage them to “think outside the box”, demonstrate personal initiative, and lead.  In essence, we (at least those who truly understand our mission area) ask them to unlearn the very traits others have worked so hard to hardwire into them.  This video makes a case for changing how we develop ourselves so that we  grow into the critical thinkers, creative problem solvers, and passionate human beings society needs.  Steven Covey advocates that we should always “begin with the end in mind.”  Why is it that our approach to education and training ignores such obvious wisdom?  Linearity, conformity, standardization does not allow any of us to realize our potential.  If we want to change who we are, we must change the way we educate and train and Sir Ken Robinson makes a rather eloquent (and entertaining) case.

Use Video to Reinvent Education (Salman Khan) – In the early 2000s, the Navy was executing what we were marketing as the “Revolution in Training”.  Many of us look back at what changed during that time and laugh.  Not smile with pride, but laugh as to say who were we kidding?  It may have been an evolution in training, but a revolution it was not.  Salman Khan serves as an example of what a revolution in training might really look like.  At my last command, we experimented with advancement in rate training and “flipped the classroom”.  Sailors made videos, their peers watched them, and showed up prepared to ask questions and/or demonstrate their understanding of the material.  Brick and mortar training remains the model of choice for most organizations (to include the Navy), but it is legacy thought.  Watch this video and think about what we might do to follow through on the false promise that the Navy made several years ago.

How to Start a Movement (Derek Sivers) – Many of us enjoy talking of leadership and help others to embrace their role of leaders.  What we fail to acknowledge is the important role played by the “First Follower”.  This video makes it clear that a leader without followers is not a leader at all.  Instead, it is the followers that create a leader.  Without followers, there is no movement.  Leaders need to give reason for others to follow and we all should be equally proud of our roles as followers as we are of our leadership roles.

Weird or Just Different (Derek Sivers) – As a proud member of the US Navy, I am surrounded by problem solvers.  The men and women with whom I serve are quick to identify problems and some even choose to offer solutions.  What I have found is that too many of us in uniform are conditioned to think the same way.  We frame problems the same way and attempt to solve them in creative ways.  The challenge in solving problems or seizing opportunities is not in the solution, but in the framing.  This video provides some great examples of how we might consider flipping the lens through which we see things before we attempt to solve them.

How to Live Before You Die (Steve Jobs) – Whether or not you like Apple or appreciate the visionary that was Steve Jobs (note my personal bias), this is a must watch for everyone.  In fact, this talk is the inspiration for the title of my blog, Connecting The Dots.  I watch this video at least once a month.  May we all stay hungry, and foolish…

Difference Between Winning and Success (Coach John Wooden) – I have long admired the teachings and example of Coach Wooden.  In fact, I left my favorite quote of his prominently displayed on the wall of the command I was so fortunate to lead.  Coach Wooden’s simple definition of success is  “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”  Success is realizing our potential, nothing more, nothing less.  If you are truly interested, spend some time looking at his Pyramid of Success.  You’ll be glad you did.

Listen, Learn…then Lead (GEN Stanley McChrystal) – Regardless of the circumstances that terminated his career, General McChrystal is clearly a great American and a great leader.  Hearing a leader of his caliber and from his generation talk of the importance of learning from juniors is what really appealed to me.  His points about the “inversion of expertise”, transparency, and reverse mentorship is what I hope others will take from this talk.

Power of Introverts (Susan Cain) – I have long considered myself an introvert, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator tests I have taken over the years have reenforced that fact, and those who know me best won’t argue with my assessment.  My career field enjoys a preponderance of introverts and the deeper our technical expertise, the more introverted we tend to be.  We talk of collaborative work environments and speaking up publicly.  What we fail to do is consider ways to truly harness the power of and connect with introverts.  The behaviors many of us are reenforcing are great on the surface, but are we really considering the attributes of those who make up our team?  The best leaders modify their approach to get the best out of the team they are leading, and when we are leading introverts the actions we take in an effort to help them to realize their potential may be isolating them and undermining our mandate.  Solitude matters!

As you immerse yourself in TED Talks, please consider sharing your favorites…