The FM Professional

7 More TED Talks Every Facility Manager Needs to See

Darin Herle
December 18th, 2018
7 TED Talks Every Facility Manager Needs to See

Given by experts from various backgrounds and industries, TED Talks showcase important ideas that span disciplines and art forms. While the focus is often on technology, education and design—hence the “TED” acronym—topics vary widely and cover everything from large global trends to useful life hacks.


Facility managers have incredibly varied responsibilities—they typically manage everything from large-scale change management to implementing internal communication strategies and rolling out new office technologies—so they need to stay on top of the latest trends. TED Talks can be a great resource for this, which is why we’ve identified seven talks that offer valuable insights related to the office environment. Some of these touch on the office specifically, while others look at the technology, communication and teamwork needed to create a productive workplace.    

Scott Wyatt: “Cubicles don’t work. How architectural design affects your brain”

The title of this presentation is a little misleading, since it doesn’t focus on cubicles all that much. Instead, it examines biophilic design and the positive effect that greenery can have on office employees. Large and successful companies like Amazon are spending a lot of money to turn parts of their offices into virtual greenhouses, and architect Scott Wyatt explains why this is happening. He also discusses that, as cities continue to grow and have denser urban cores, businesses need to rethink the traditional office environment. The clear line between “the office” and “the outside world” is disappearing.

Want to learn more? Read our article What Is Biophilic Design and Why Should You Care? to find out more about this fascinating design movement.

Jason Fried: “Why work doesn’t happen at work”

If an office exists to provide employees with a productive workplace, why do so many people seemingly go anywhere else when they need to focus and get some serious work done? In other words, why do so many employees struggle to do their best work at the office? Jason Fried suggests that it stems from a combination of inefficient processes (read: too many meetings) and involuntary interruptions that can come from well-meaning teammates and managers. He continues by comparing work to sleep: both are processes that require long periods without interruption in order to be effective. For facility managers looking to create a less disruptive working environment, this TED Talk is a must.

Want to learn more? Check out our article How to Design an Office for Both Privacy and Collaboration for tips on creating an office environment that’s conducive to heads-down work.

Jordan Duffy: “The Internet of Things”

You’ve probably heard murmurings that the Internet of Things (IoT) is going to change the way we live and work. If you’re unsure exactly what the IoT is—it refers to a network of connected devices that can send and receive information—or how it’s likely to impact the office environment, this level-setting talk by entrepreneur and technology innovation expert Jordan Duffy is worth a watch. Duffy discusses how everyday items can be connected to the internet to provide much greater access to the data facilities management teams need to keep the office running. As an example, sensors can be used to provide a much more accurate indication of how employees actually utilize office space.

Want to learn more: Find out how the IoT will change facilities management and how sensors can revolutionize space management.

David Logan: “Tribal leadership”

The teams and departments that work in an office form what David Logan refers to as “tribes”. Together, these groups create mutual meaning, gather consensus and rely on each other for a number of functions. Logan provides a simple five-stage framework to help managers understand the quality and nature of these relationships, and gives them the tools to improve workplace dynamics and departmental relationships. This talk is a particularly helpful starting point for teams that are addressing challenges in workplace culture or social cohesion.

Want to learn more? Read this article offering five communication tips for facility managers, or learn about the effect Dunbar’s Number could be having on your organization.

David Autor: “Will automation take away all our jobs?”

Facilities management is filled with opportunities to automate processes. While this might reduce costs and improve efficiency, managers are also wondering about the impact these changes will have on employment and jobs. David Autor offers insight into the history of machines replacing human beings, and provides an optimistic view of how automation actually affects jobs. FMs will benefit from understanding the history of automation and heeding Autor’s advice. He suggests education and training be made a top priority in every organization to prepare the workforce for a changing technological paradigm. Only those organizations that are willing to embrace digital transformation will remain relevant.

Want to learn more? Find out about the systems all FMs should consider automating and read how robotics will change the workplace.

Analyzing data is a necessity in today’s connected world—including the realm of facilities management. Facility managers work with overwhelming amounts of information, and while having access to data is great, it needs to be understood in a human context. Giorgia Lupi’s talk centers on the need to understand the human element behind the data we analyze—something that can bring about unforeseen benefits. Managers working with large amounts of data may find these ideas helpful to contextualize the information they rely on in new ways—seemingly unrelated data in areas like scheduling, finances, equipment orders and energy use can hold valuable insights about how the people in a workplace think and feel.

Want to learn more? Read What FMs Need to Know About Big Data to uncover the implications of big data for facility managers.

Tom Wujec: “Build a tower, build a team”

Tom Wujec’s talk outlines a staple team-building exercise—he engages different groups in a simple tower building contest. The competition pits groups like kindergarteners, engineers and CEOs against each other to see who can build the tallest tower within a set time limit. The talk unveils some unexpected results, with teams who remove ego and instead focus on iterative methods winning over teams consisting of people in leadership positions. Managers who work with project-focused teams may find this talk especially helpful as it holds valuable information about matching incentives, skill sets and work processes in order to achieve a shared goal.

Want to learn more? Learn how to build a strong FM department and find out what soft skills facility managers need to develop.


These are just seven of the great TED Talks out there—there are hundreds more that could prove useful to facility managers. Whether you’re looking to improve how you communicate, give more confident presentations or improve teamwork, TED Talks can help spur creative insights and solutions to common workplace problems. FMs who seek out relevant knowledge and actively incorporate new methods, processes and technologies stand to gain from a more empowered and adaptive mindset.

Looking for a sophisticated IWMS that’s guided by the latest developments in workplace design and technology? Contact our team and request a demo today.

Photo Credits: TED Conference / Flickr