In today’s highly productivity-driven world, where successful project management  is key, inspirational talks are all the rage in sparking motivation. TED talks in particular are widely shared throughout the web, and even offline, in classrooms and among friends. The platform allows professionals to speak on a variety of themes and topics that are in their scope.

Successful Project Management

At the same time, their attractiveness comes from the simple language speakers use to connect to their audience. Instead of using jargon and unintelligible words, TED speakers connect with emotions and talk through experience. This makes them less intimidating and more human, reminding all of us that at the end of the day, the most motivational thing is actually common to everyone.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know the secrets of the universe – even if the speaker is probably a rocket scientist themselves – such life-changing experiences are very relatable and not at all unique to just geniuses.

Leadership: A Rich Topic

TED talks can span a wide range of topics, from education to wellness. Among such topics, business leadership is arguably one of the most talked about.

The thing about leadership is that it isn’t often boxed into just one discussion. It branches out into other sub-topics that touches on equally important matters, like organizational psychology, problem solving, and even empathy.

These are all traits that a leader must possess and have a good handle of, but nevertheless are often overlooked in favor of simple aggression and bravado. However, if we look at TED talks and supporting studies, leadership – especially business leadership – entails a much more complex set of capabilities that don’t always come naturally to people, and can’t be decided on by just intimidating your team.

To have a better idea of how exactly industry leaders themselves define such a rich topic, let’s have a rundown of the 10 best TED talks on management and the traits required for successful project management:

  1. Build a Tower Build a Team (Tom Wujec)

Tom Wujec takes on the anecdote of an exercise some of us will have come across in our student years: building a tower out of simple materials. In this case, it’s a spire set up on spaghetti, marshmallow, duct tape, and thread.

The materials may seem flimsy, but you’ll be surprised with how sturdy it can turn out to be with the right guidance. Wujec conducted the test through a wide range of test subjects, from CEOs, business leaders, and even to kindergartners. The results will surprise you.

Build a tower - successful project management

Why it Matters for Successful Project Management

This seemingly harmless task is actually a great test in team building, and, of course, in project leadership. What does it have to do with leading a team? Well, everything!

The coordination and collaboration needed in setting up a sturdy foundation for what Wujec calls “the marshmallow problem” are the same principles used in creating a high-functioning team.

Simply put, strong teams are the foundation of successful project management.

You could even look at this tower as a metaphor for the very nature of team-building: without proper leadership skills or team synergy, your group will seem as unstable and uncertain as a marshmallow tower. But given a strong lead at the helm and all members in full cooperation, even with the crudest of outlines can your team really pull through.

  1. The Puzzle of Motivation (Dan Pink)

Dan Pink - TED

Great leaders are, of course, equally great motivators. You can’t move an entire project to action without catering to your team members’ motivational cores to some extent. Often, the root of motivation has been tied to incentives.

While this still holds true today, career analyst Dan Pink takes another look at our age-old incentive methods and concludes that they don’t work as well today as they used to. For modern leaders, there is a need to rethink and reframe our way of moving teams to action.

Why don’t traditional incentives work as well as they used to? Pink says it’s because they’ve all been geared towards compliance, but an effective leader and motivator will always want engagement, and that entails more than just doling out emotionless rewards.

Why it Matters to Project Management

A team can’t function without motivated workers whose hearts are really into what they’re doing – something we’ll be seeing later in another motivational speaker’s words. To do this, there needs to be a fundamental understanding of how human emotions and motivators work, not merely how you think they do.

Engagement matters in creating great team synergy both among your team members and between yourself and them. Lead the perfect project by tweaking your incentive methods and re-considering your leadership. This is an essential part of succesful project management.

  1. The Happy Secret to Better Work (Shawn Achor)

There’s an age-old saying that goes: “Happy workers lead to better work”. And for Good Think CEO, Shawn Achor, this is largely true. Achor challenges the perception that happiness is found in work, and flips the coin by saying work is found in happiness.

And a happier workforce is also great news for managers. Work satisfaction supposedly boosts productivity, and, in effect, profitability, according to Achor. It does make sense, if you think about it. Miserable workers don’t put their heart into what they’re doing, and thus become more careless in producing work. On the other hand, more meticulous workers are emotionally invested in their jobs, rather than just forced into it.

So which came first, work satisfaction or high performance? Achor says they co-exist, but oftentimes it’s the former that precedes performance.

Why it Matters to Project Management

While Achor’s talk may seem light-hearted and fun, it has a deeper psychological basis than that. Happiness does equate to increased productivity and more engaged employees. Dissatisfaction, and, in extreme cases, depression at work not only depletes interest and energy, but also distracts your workers.

Think about it this way: if an employee was happy with their job, they would be less likely to want to leave or look for other forms of work than those who are dissatisfied with what they’re doing. Restlessness in the workplace is created by feelings of either boredom or dread.

Revamping your leadership style and making it not too strict nor too lax can change the way workers perceive the workplace. And the way they think about their work makes all the difference in how they will execute it. Happy workers will highly increase your chances of having successful management of projects.

  1. How Great Leaders Inspire Action (Simon Sinek)

In yet another TED talk speaking to leaders’ inner motivators, author Simon Sinek talks about how great leaders inspire action. Cliché as it may sound, Sinek locates the core of motivational leadership within the Self first.

Sinek asks leaders to look within themselves and first ask “Why?” – Why do you believe in what you believe in? Why are you working towards it?

In this almost philosophical view of leadership, Sinek explains that the best way to motivate others is to articulate to them what you believe in, and work on convincing them from thereon. While hiring simple workers will get you employees who will only do the job for how much you can pay them, hiring individuals who are just as passionate as you are in what you do will actually gain you an indispensable workforce.

How it helps to enable Successful Project Management

Similar to the other TED talks we’ve discussed above, the point of Sinek’s speech is to establish a strong foundation within the team. This can only be done through a leadership that knows what it’s doing. A self-reflexive leader who looks within themselves without becoming absorbed in the anxiety of falling to every misstep will surely motivate a team of determined individuals who can do the same.

The strong belief towards success of a project, enables a positive attitude in the management of the project. Being certain in your beliefs is already a solid step in convincing others. The confidence needed to create this self-conviction actually does start from questioning yourself first. In Sinek’s speech, he asks us to ask ourselves “Why?” Coming up with an answer will surely lead to a firmer resolve in executing your project plan. Once you do that, you’ll be well on the way towards successful project management.

  1. The Power of Introverts (Susan Cain)



A leader is often stereotyped as a loud and aggressive go-getter. Susan Cain, world-acclaimed author of The Quiet Revolution and pioneer in establishing the introvert’s place in a world that can’t stop talking, would say otherwise.

Each personality has its own strengths and weaknesses, and introverts, those introspective, often quiet members of the workforce, are just as valuable as their extroverted counterparts. Cain explains how for decades, institutions have been shaped for extroverts, with not a lot left to go around for more contemplative children.

This creates an unconscious bias which tells us that loud = good, quiet = low performance levels. But the equation doesn’t actually work this way. In fact, Cain even says that there is “no direct correlation between being the best talker and the best ideas.”

Why Introverts Matters to Project Management Success

People often form unconscious biases at the back of their minds that can affect the way they assess potential employees. You could be missing out on a great opportunity and worker, just because you’ve been trained all your life to favor the loud and brash over inward individuals.

Don’t let potentially important workers slip past you. Take Cain’s words to heart and overcome your unconscious biases. Test employees in ways other than looking at their extraversion, such as their strengths in writing. Ask the help of professionals in assessing these capabilities, even online.

Remember that every person’s strength contributes to a diverse team, and may even create a healthier dynamics in the long run.

Having a wide range of varied skills in your team, is a strong enabler for successful project management.

  1. Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are (Amy Cuddy)

Amy Cuddy puts together well-known hunches about what makes the best leaders so influential, and study-backed social psychology in her TED talk on body language. Going in depth on the implications of every little action people take and make, Cuddy explains what makes a strong and convincing action.

And it seems like you don’t have to say much to get the point across fast, either. According to Cuddy, body language plays a huge role in establishing your influence in a group. For instance, an open posture would show your confidence and self-assurance, while a more hunched and inward posture would indicate insecurity and less trustworthiness.

These are apparently rooted in our most primal survival instincts, and we unconsciously react to these minor bodily signals in understanding each other.

Successful project managers will be always sending the right body language signals (both consciously and sub-consciously).

Why it Matters to Project Management

Group communication is extremely important in any team effort – and is strongly required for successful project management. Realizing that you can get your point across not just through actions can be helpful in communicating with each of your members. Not to mention, a good leader should also be able to establish security and confidence in their actions.

For people to follow you, you must appear like you know what you’re doing. At the same time, not looking too hostile as to discourage your team from opening up to you. Even the smallest gestures can make all the difference in creating a meaningful connection with all the individuals in your team. Make the most out of it.

Verbal and non-verbal communication is one of those successful project management skills which are essential to the positive completion of projects.

  1. As Work Gets More Complex, 6 Rules to Simplify (Yves Morieux)

As corporations grow, their systems become more complex, complicated, and sometimes, even to those inside it, incomprehensible. According to Yves Morieux, that’s when you step in and start untying the knots of complexity in order to create a more productive environment.

Complexity is counter-productive to successful project management.

Ironically, this doesn’t mean doing away with the intricate processes that exist in businesses altogether. It simply means reassessing the core of your business’ foundation, and managing this complicatedness into something that will ultimately be productive.

Why it Matters for great Project Management

We can get so caught up in our own bureaucratic processes sometimes that we forget these can also be inefficient. Following Morieux’s advice, untangling some of these rough edges can actually lead to greater productivity in our workforce.

Going to the root of the problem and looking at how traditional business pillars may not be working the way they used to in a modern setting, can help us create a more conducive work environment.

  1. Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work (Jason Fried)


Why work doesn't happen at work

Imagine a stereotypical office setup: sanitized walls, endless meetings, and micromanaging bosses – not to mention bored and uninterested employees secretly scrolling through their news feeds on their phones or work computers.

Jason Fried tells us that it doesn’t always have to be this way. Transforming the work place from a dull and unproductive setting into a collaborative and conducive environment can be done by tweaking the previously described scenario. And it may surprise you, but the answer isn’t in banning social media.

It’s in lessening unproductive meetings and stopping the micromanaging. Employees are more inclined to listen to a boss who’s not always hounding on their heels all the time, and may actually get more of the heavy lifting done if they’re not trapped in endless hours of board room meetings.

Why it Matters to Project Management

Creativity is an important aspect in team output – particularly thinking out of the box when trying to solve a complex project problem. Inspiring creativity in the workplace doesn’t mean beating it out of them through forced brainstorming sessions. Sometimes it has to come spontaneously, from activities that they are actually interested in.

At the same time, a literal ‘thinking outside the box’ would mean not constraining employees within the four walls of your board room. The search engine giant Google, best known for its creative initiatives, reportedly lets its employees work on their own pet projects outside required work.

This not only gives their employees free rein on their own ideas, but also makes them feel valued in a workplace that understands their need for creative space.

When your brain is free to roam, successful project management becomes one of your driving forces, just because you’ll be enjoying and thinking about what you are doing.

  1. Lead like the Great Conductors (Itay Talgum)

They may seem like two distinct disciplines, but music and business an actually find a common ground. At least, that’s what Israeli conductor Itay Talgum tells us in his unique and poignant TED talk. Talgum links business leadership to conducting an orchestra, and once you look at it in that way, the similarities do become clear.

Why it Matters to Project Management

A harmonious symphony is created only through a close collaboration between conductor and player, and also among the individual instruments in the symphony. In the same way, successful project management involves a balancing of power relationships between leader and team member, as well as the existing synergy within the group itself.

Seamlessly relating these two disciplines, Talgum gives us the secret of great conductors to collaboration, and tells us that in business, it’s not so different either.

Collaboration of course is a founding pillar of successful project management.

The tool we use, Wrike centers around improving collaboration between team members. Even collaboration between client and provider is an essential project management success criterion. Wrike in fact involves the client directly within the project (up to the extent that the project owner requires).

  1. 8 Secrets to Success (Richard St. John)

Researching meticulously on the secrets of the world’s most influential and successful leaders, Richard St. John found out one thing: “If you do it for love, the money will come anyway.”

Giving this well-known anecdote a refreshing new spin, St. John manages to inspire listeners to follow their gut feeling, hold on to their beliefs, and believe in their own capabilities.

Why it Matters to Project Management

Heading a project you believe in is highly important for any leader. Perhaps the greatest key to motivating your team and those around you, is by first motivating yourself. That’s why successful project management comes first if you are doing the things you love!

Conclusion – Successful project management requires a well-oiled machine

As these TED speakers show, successful project management and the fulfillment of projects whether large or small is not an accident. This requires plenty of thought, a great team, good communication, passion, great leaders and lots of other skills.

No wonder, we’ll always recommend a good project management solution to help you out with your projects. Why not try out Wrike?