Why TED Talks Resonate With Us


I’ve noticed something lately.  I suspect it has always been the case, and I’m only now becoming aware of it.

As human beings we constantly live at the crossroads of competing desires and emotions.

Perhaps the most pronounced of these inner conflicts is our competing desires for authenticity and security. 

Our need for security manifests itself in the tendency that we have to “follow the group”.  There is safety in the group.  This is hardwired in us.  It is always comforting to learn that other people think and believe what we believe.

We can also see our need for security – the need to be part of a group – manifest itself in our consumer patterns.

How many people lined up around the world in the last couple of weeks to get a new phone, when their old phone worked perfectly well? 

Our behaviours as consumers are easily understandable when you understand our need to be unified, our need to fit into a group, and our need to be accepted.

It doesn’t stop with phones.  Everyone one of us (me included) has felt comfort in some type of group setting.

Our group tendencies can also be manipulated by companies and individuals wanting to maximize profits.  A perfect example of this (at least in my city – Calgary, Alberta, Canada) is in the residential home development market.

You can drive a full circle around Calgary and see nothing but homogenized homes and neighbourhoods – a sprawling Legoland that lacks character and uniqueness. 

Developers will probably take umbrage to this remark – they will say that they are providing a good service and what people want.

 I don’t buy it.  I don’t think that people want a Legoland house for a half a million dollars.  But I digress…..

People go along with it.  People go along with it because they don’t have a lot of choices.  They don’t have a lot of power, and there is a sense of comfort in being in a group – a sense that all of us experience in some form or another.

This is where the competing desire for authenticity comes in.

We all want to live authentic lives, but the modern world makes it hard to do so.

It is hard to feel authentic when you can only afford a Legoland house that is almost identical to ten thousand other houses.

It is hard to feel authentic when working in a cubicle.

It is hard to feel authentic while wearing a suit surrounded by a sea of other people in suits.

It is hard to feel authentic when what we buy, what we experience, and what we do, is the same as millions of other people.

I think that this conflicted need in our lives – the need for authenticity balanced with group security – is why the TED brand is so popular.

TED offers an extreme variety of thought, and we get to control  whether we agree or disagree with what is being said.

TED, as an organization, has created a portal for diversity of ideas, and they have organized it in a way that is easy to use, and navigate.

TED, as a portal of information, provides the perfect blend of “group security” and “authenticity” to satisfy our conflicting needs.  Here is how:

There is an extreme abundance of diverse ideas (the “authenticity” part) available, and when you discover an idea that uniquely resonates with you, you also discover a tribe of other people who also believe this idea as well (the “group security”).

Brilliant.  That’s why it works.

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