Hans Rosling’s 9 TED Talks: How Infographics Bolster Big Data

Hans Rosling’s magnetic personality is a large part for why his TED Talks are so engaging. The other part is how he turns immense data-sets into visual stories.

Well, I must confess, I’m anywhere from two months to twelve years late to this party.

But when an article titled, Bill Gates Wants You to Watch These 9 TED Talks popped up on my Twitter-feed, I obeyed. The article coincided with the April release of the late Hans Rosling’s book, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think. The book like all of Rosling’s lectures is a rebuttal to the pervasive idea that the “world’s going to hell in a hand basket.” Gate’s praises the book as “one of the most important” he’s ever read. It’s clear from his Time Magazine article earlier this year, how Rosling’s ideas overlap with his own.

Rosling was a Swedish physician and statistician who was also the Professor of International Health at Karolinska Institute. All of his presentations deal with examining how large sets of publicly collected statistics can paint a more accurate picture of how our world is changing over the course of decades.

The Inc. article that alerted me to this book release also graciously informed me about 9 of Hans’ lectures (most of them TED Talks) that I’ve gathered for you below.

Are they specifically about business? Yes and no.

I firmly believe that business opportunities exist everywhere if you’re creative enough to see them. But, you need to know about them in order for your business acumen to see the possibilities. As a CEO you need to learn about everything. Because, as Hans shows us, the world is all connected. What’s more, he provides examples time and time again which show us that we have a gross misunderstanding of how our world is evolving.

Here’s three business-minded insights that stuck with me about these videos:

1. Big Data is King

Having overtaken “the Cloud” in popularity, “Big Data” is now the latest buzzword of the day for businesses to use. (Alongside “machine learning” and “AI.”)

But it’s true. Data is crucial for a company. (Rich Manders will tell you it’s especially critical for when you want to exit.) Forecasting can only occur if you know where you’re starting and can track how you’ve ended up where you are. Obviously, your financials are front and center in this sector, but what other data are you tracking? Web traffic, social engagement, employee retention, customer demographics are all important metrics. How well are you tracking those figures that don’t start with a ‘$’? Now, what are you doing with those numbers?

2. But Presentation is Queen

It’s abundantly clear, watching Rosling present his findings, that how you present data matters. His presentations would be far less impactful without his gapminder technology. (A software that he created with his son and daughter-in-law.) This technology allows him to bolster his theories with animations that articulate the evolution of multiple data-sets all at once. Once seen, simply put, you’ll never want to use Power Point again.

Don’t forget when you’re running meetings that repetition and asking questions are great at promoting employee comprehension, but well-made visuals can make complex data approachable and comprehensible. Rosling’s animated bubble charts show four data points in a logical manner. There are a number of great infographic tools available online for you to use, but don’t hesitate to use props like Hans does in his later videos.

3. Globalization has already occurred

Rosling scoffs at the concept of “us and them.” That there’s a “developed” and a “developing world.” He uses a plethora of facts and statistics to drive this point home. “It’s as if the world is flattening off,” Hans says. So if we’re all as similar as he says we are, what percentage of your customers are located internationally? What market opportunities are you missing?

Watch this videos and get a shot of optimism – about humanity, the world, the economy, and our future. They’re also highly entertaining and fun, due in large part to Rosling’s energy and humor.

Message me on LinkedIn and let me know which video was your favorite!

Below are the 9 TED Talks and other lectures which I’ve displayed chronologically. Towards the end they can be repetitive (again, not a bad thing) but I found myself still enjoying them due to they’re entertaining, uplifting, and highly informative nature. I also included some of my favorite quotes from each.


The Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen – 19:49 (2006)

If you’re only going to watch one video, make it this one. It’s uplifting to see how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time.

Favorite quotes:

“I think if we don’t look at the data. We all underestimate the tremendous change in Asia.”

“The improvement of the world needs to be highly contextualized.”

“It’s impossible, it can’t be done. Our information is so peculiar in detail so that it cannot be searched as others can be searched.”

New Insights on Poverty – 18:54 (2007)

Rosling uses his incredible gapminder technology to draw parallels in time between countries as they grow economically.

BTW – I never thought I’d be that person writing the grossly overused internet expression “watch till the end” but, yeah….watch till the end. You’ll see.

Favorite quotes:

“The Philippines of today has almost the same economy of the United States during the first World War. But we have to bring the US forwards quite a while to find the same health of the United States as we have in the Philippines.”

“And this is the drama of the world that many call globalized. Is that Asia, Arabic countries, Latin America countries are much more ahead in healthy educated, having human resources than they are economically.”

“Social progress is going ahead of economical progress.”

“The Impossible is possible”

Asia’s rise – how and when – 15:43 (2009)

At TEDIndia, Hans graphs the economic growth between India, China, Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom since 1858. He goes on to use that data to predict the exact date that India and China will outstrip the US economically.

Favorite quotes:

“The average is there. If I would split China. Look there, Shanghai has already caught up! Shanghai is already there, and it’s healthier than the United States.”

“You see these enormous inequity in China in the midst of fast economic growth.”

“Now in India the big inequities are within the state and not between the states. And that’s not a bad thing in itself. If you have a lot of inequity, macro-geographical inequities can be more difficult in the longterm to deal with.”

“There is one more inequity – Washington D.C.!”

“I can see a business opportunity for Kerala helping fix the health system in the United States.”

Global Population Growth, Box by Box – 9:56 (2010)

In this and the following videos Rosling begins to use his data to talk about specific social issues. Breaking away from his digital tools, Rosling uses analog props to show how raising the living standards in the poorest nations can actually work to check population growth.

Favorite quotes:

“There was an enormous gap in the world when I grew up. And this gap between ‘the West’ and ‘the Rest’ created a mindset that we still use linguistically.”

“The world population has doubled since I went to school.”

“We cannot have people on this level looking for food and shoes. Because then we get continued population growth.”

“Child survival is the new green.”

The Magic Washing Machine – 9:08 (2010)

This video, in keeping with social issues, talks about how the global community must adopt and promote sustainable energy as the prevalence of electricity permeates new markets.

Favorite quotes:

“How do most of the women in the world wash?”

“There are two billion fellow human beings who live on less than $2/day”

“There’s an additional 1 billion people who live above the ‘wash line.’”

“And then I put the really tough question: how many of you hand wash your jeans and bed sheets?”

“Even the hardcore in the green movement use washing machines.”

Religions and babies – 13:13 (2012)

Speaking at a TEDxSummit in Doha, Qatar – Rosling attacks the question, of whether or not a countries dominant religion is causation for that country’s birth rate. He continues to use data show how social programs can work in concert with religions to improve the world without compromising the values of the religion.

Favorite quotes:

“And by 2010, we are actually 80% of humans who live in countries with about 2 children per women.”

“In the world today, it’s the countries that have the highest mortality rates that have the fastest population growth.”

“The most important factors are as follows: increased age at first marriage, increased education of Qatari women, and more women integrated in the labor force.”

“All religions are fully able to maintain their values and adapt to this new world.”

The River of Myths – 2:50 (2013)

This is what I affectionately refer to as the “cocktail party version” of his amazing 2006 TED Talk.

Favorite quote:

“But to ensure that that happens we must measure the progress of countries. It’s only by measuring, that we can cross the River of Myths.”

How to not be ignorant about the world – 19:06 (2014)

This lecture (with a guest appearance from his “boss”/son Ola Rosling) is a notable precursor to their recently released book Factfulness as their presentation goes after our biases and preconceived notions of the dismal state of the world.

Favorite quotes:

“The first thing to think about the future, is to know about the present.”

“You see, the problem isn’t that people don’t read and listen to the media. It’s that the media doesn’t know themselves.”

“When we realize that it’s actually succeeding, we can understand it.”

“If you have a fact-based view of the world today, you might have a chance to understand what’s coming next in the future.”

“73% of the rich consumers are going to live outside North America and Europe.”

Why the world population won’t exceed 11 billion – 16:36 (2015)

Rosling uses statistics (and props) to give an overview of population growth and an explanation of why the total human population will never reach 11 billion, as others predict and fear. It’s a lot like his Global Population Growth, Box by Box lecture but he show how with even a globally decling birthrate our population will continue to grow.

Favorite quotes:

“Always the death rate has to fall before the birth rate is falling.”

“Since 1960 we have had no exponential growth whatsoever. We’ve had an absolutely linear growth.”

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