A lot of people know about my work through my talks at the TED conference, and especially the first one, in 2006, ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity?’ At 41 million views and counting it is still the most viewed talk in TED’s history. A couple of years ago, I was at a university in the mid-West of America to give a speech to students. Over lunch, one of the faculty said, “You’ve been at this a long time, haven’t you?” “What’s that?” I asked. “Trying to transform education,” he said. I nodded and smiled nostalgically for the past four decades of sweat and tears. “What is it now,” he said “seven years?” A touch startled, I said, “What do you mean, seven years.” He said, “You know, since that TED talk.” I said, “Yes, but I was alive before that.” And it’s true. I was asked to speak at TED because of my work in education in the many years before I’d even heard of it.
Even so, that and my other talks at TED have proved to have an extraordinary reach. Altogether they’ve been viewed online more than 70 million times in 160 countries. Because they’re often shown at conferences, training events and workshops, the numbers of people who’ve seen them maybe five or ten times more than that. Why is that? One reason, I’m sure, is that people find them funny and entertaining. Let’s face it, they are. But the real reason is that what I’m arguing for resonates deeply with so many people.
I’m often asked what impact these talks and the related books have really had. I know they’ve had a big one, because people constantly tell me. In person, on websites, in texts and emails, people in many different countries say that I’m telling their story; and that they’ve felt inspired to do things differently as a result. I hear from young people who’ve felt empowered to explore their own talents; from parents who’ve changed how they view and treat their children; from educators, who’ve changed how they teach; from principals who’ve transformed their schools; from others who’ve have started new schools; from politicians who’ve changed their policies; and from corporate leaders who’ve changed how they do business.
TED’s motto is “Ideas Worth Spreading.” It’s now ten years since that first TED Talk in 2006 and it seems a good time to draw some of these experiences together and, with your help, to spread them more widely too. If your life or work has been changed by any of my talks or books, I’d love to know why and how; and what the effects have been on you and on those you affect.
Click the 10 Years On tab at the top of the page to see how. By the way, I plan to feature a selection of these responses here and on my Facebook and twitter pages to inspire others to be the change too. I look forward to hearing from you.