Following is the full transcript of former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts’ TEDx Talk: The Power of Human Energy at TEDxHollywood conference. This event occurred on March 28, 2013. In this TEDx Talk, Angela talks about the positive and transformative power of human energy.
Listen to the MP3 Audio: The Power of Human Energy by Angela Ahrendts at TEDxHollywood
Thanks, Ken. Good morning!
I do want a better company than I give presentation. So you will bear with me. But let me go back a little bit further, tell you about myself.
I have been in a fashion industry over 60% of my life from New York to L.A. and now London. But I’ve also been from a small Midwestern town. And a really big family a hundred percent of my life.
Raised by a spiritual mother and a philosopher father and inspired over the years by amazing great global leaders, and, as Ken said, a little nervous because this is literally the first time in seven years I am not allowed to talk about the transformation that I’ve recently done.
So I decided to focus on the second half of the topic and share with you some of the other stuff that I’ve learned over the last couple of years. And I think it’s actually one of the most powerful forces that we’re all born with. But we rarely discuss it and you can’t see it. But it is so strongly felt.
My talk today is on Energy. Not oil, solar, wind, natural gas. Not how to conserve or how to sustain. Because after two hours I found over 560 TED Talks online about that topic.
My talk today is on human energy and how it single-handedly has the power to unite and transform companies and communities. And there were less than 10 TED Talks on this topic. So, bear with me.
What is energy?
This is kind of the part where I felt like I needed to put on my earth shoes and my poncho and answer but bear with me a second. Because again it’s not a topic that we all talk a lot about. So think of it this way: we breathe. We all take in and we all exhale air. Right?
I believe we also all take in and we all emit energy. Very few leaders talk about it and even fewer have mastered it. But when you find it, energy is like discovering your passion, listening to it, exploring it. It’s like this forward charging spirit that creates challenges and embraces those change in challenges.
And if that’s a little heady for this early in the morning then think of it this way: Every one of you has encountered a certain person, felt like someone is more present or when you’re around them you feel more real, more aware. Or you’ve walked into an environment or an office when things feel like they’re moving a little faster. For some reason instinctively you’re drawn to it, subconsciously you want to be a part of it. But you can’t really articulate what it is.
So think of energy almost like emotional electricity. It has a powerful way of uniting ordinary people, their collective spirit to do extraordinary things.
Why do we need it?
I mean I don’t think anyone would argue that we’re undergoing unprecedented change today, and there’s probably the greatest amount of fear, distrust, uncertainty than ever before. So many communities aren’t from Indianapolis, Indiana and every time I go back I’m just fascinated on how many communities are literally paralyzed because there’s just lack of hope.
I believe we need positive energy to be channeled, to help counterbalance all of the negative disruptive energy out there right now. I think we need it to remove a lot of individual barriers and individual idiosyncrasies. We need it to unite groups of people to focus on what’s best for the greater good of the whole. When you do this – creates confidence, creates a safe environment for people feel they belong, they’re worthy and I would argue they feel love. Not a lot of people talking about love today!
But it was funny I wanted to have a leader that I could quote that said you know “They created a movement on love.” Talked to my mum. She reminded me that today 2,000 years ago a great leader said: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Not a religious statement whatsoever but a great leadership fact.
Emotive energy transcends normal communication and rational ways of working. It inspires people to do and give more. And I can say this because I have been on a real self-discovery journey specifically, the last seven-eight years. And I will tell you one thing on energy that was funny before I decided to accept this job. I met with a chief creative officer in New York and in brainstorm that over could we create the kind of company that we both dreamed of working for. So we put the strategies on the napkin and literally put them aside and spent the next two hours talking about energy. How we could create it because we knew we would need something else additional to realize our dreams.
Took the job, eight months later, hired a consulting company as you often do in this position to confuse you with some facts. They went on to tell my board there was a five percent probability that I could achieve the plan I put forward. And funny because looking back I don’t think they ever considered energy. Or realized how quickly it could unite a line and bring promise. The plan was achieved one year early.
But what makes energy work?
Energy needs to come from a very deep core. For me it’s three things: trust, intuition and belief. These are universal truths that form a foundation that everybody can always depend.
Trust, since the creation of man, is where we all derive our greatest strength and power. It’s like the exterior heart that all energy flows through. I often think of it as this cognitive and this emotional sea where our deepest compassions and our greatest thoughts are free to flow undeterred by human insecurities. Trust is the basis in every human relationship and single-handedly the most powerful force of positive energy. Without it energy can’t even be formed. But when it’s in place it unlocks freedom and a peace.
But intuition! I think of it as a form of wisdom. The gift of knowing without reasoning. When you’re not forced to overthink things it’s amazing — the clarity that emerges and how rapidly you can adapt. Intuition is usually more right than wrong. Though we’d love to convince ourselves otherwise.
Why is it that we value thinking over feeling? Why aren’t we taught to follow our natural inclinations to protect the possibilities instead of just accepting the probabilities? I can say this because I have a lot of experience in intuition and feeling. I am a little odd, I am what in our industry we call a 50:50: I am half right brained – empathetic. And I am half left brained – analytical.
I have learned to feel my way through life personally and professionally. I have learned to listen and to hone my instincts, to be perceptive and be receptive, to change, to constantly live in ambiguity.
How else can leaders today look around the corner and warn others what’s coming? Only when you follow your instincts and continually renew your mind can your possibilities become realities.
But on to belief. Have you ever really thought about that old adage “Success breeds success”? Belief to me is the more rational side of energy. It kind of begins with hope, hope’s positive spirits and it is reinforced with facts and evidence and becomes belief.