State Street uses TED talks to boost innovation and engagement


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The financial services company is using TED talks to boost innovation and engagement

Financial services company State Street is using TED talks to boost innovation and engagement internationally, CHRO and citizenship officer Alison Quirk has told HR magazine.

Quirk explained how State Street had begun a corporate partnership with conference series TED. Employees from across the globe are invited to pitch ideas for presentations. The best 15 or so are then chosen by TED, and TED representatives work with staff to refine their talks and curate the event.

It culminates in an annual TED@State Street event, attended by staff, clients, friends and family. Talks are also hosted on TED’s website where anyone can watch them. One State Street employee’s presentation has been viewed about three million times.

Quirk, who has presented her own TED talk, said the experience was “an intense personal journey”. She said that one HR employee had even used her TED talk as an opportunity to come out as a lesbian to the rest of the business.

Working with TED is inspiring innovation across the firm, according to Quirk. “When people think about different things, ideas can spark,” she said. “Innovation comes from odd places.”

She said hundreds of employees had applied to take part in the talks. “It is really illustrative of the amount of creative, thought-provoking genius that exists in every corner of the organisation,” she said.

She added: “We have 30,000 employees – what ideas are out there? It shows all of us that we have barely scratched the surface of the talent we have in the company.”

The role of line managers is crucial for harnessing staff creativity, she added. “We need to give managers the tools and open their eyes to make sure that collective genius comes to solve problems,” she said.

“We need to create a culture where people feel they can bring their ideas and new ways of solving problems; that’s the part that needs to happen to unlock that collective genius.”

Outside of the TED talks, Quirk also revealed that senior managers were being coached in storytelling to help them engage employees in change programmes.

She said showing vulnerability is key. “When leaders tell stories and lace them with things that have happened to them, people can relate to it,” she said. “It makes them real and it makes people want to follow them.”

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