Hiring and Growth

The 10 TED Talks Every Small Business Owner Should Listen to

Kira Deutch Former Managing Editor, Gusto 
The 10 TED Talks Every Small Business Owner Should Listen to

In the business world, you may feel super stressed more often than superhero-esque. So when you need a shot of inspiration to give you back your superpowers, TED talks are the perfect remedy. From medicine to the arts, these bite-sized lessons allow viewers to make connections between wildly different ideas. And with thousands of videos available online, it’s a wildly fun way to put yourself in a transformative mood.

The latest info & advice to help you run your business.

We’ve sifted through the entire TED talks library to bring you a few of our favorite picks for small business owners. Nearly all of the videos are under 20 minutes, so you can watch or listen whenever you need them most. Shimmy on your headphones, crank up the volume, and get inspired with us.

1. Creative problem-solving in the face of extreme limits

“When external resources are scarce, you have to go within yourself to tap the most abundant resource, human ingenuity…”

In this talk, innovation strategist Navi Radjou traces his scrappiness skills to a concept called jugaad, which comes from the Hindi word for an “improvised fix.” Tune in to learn how you can use the jugaad mindset to find solutions no matter what life throws your way.

2. Why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work

“… we need to redefine leadership as an activity in which conditions are created in which everyone can do their most courageous thinking together.”

Five-time CEO Margaret Heffernan explains that it’s not just star employees that drive success — it comes from the star quality of the team. This talk reveals tips for building a workplace where everyone feels more connected, appreciated, and fulfilled in the work they do.

3. The single biggest reason why startups succeed

“We thought the idea was so great, but actually, the timing was probably maybe more important.”

According to Idealab founder Bill Gross, if people are ready for your service, that factor alone matters more than anything. In this video, you’ll learn why timing can be such a strong indicator of success, and how companies can up their odds that they’ll be around for the long haul.

4. How great leaders inspire action

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it, and what you do simply serves as the proof of what you believe.”

Tune in to this talk to hear ethnographer Simon Sinek uncover the top characteristics between some of the world’s best visionaries. You’ll learn about Sinek’s concept of the Golden Circle, and how it contains one simple question that has inspired leaders since the dawn of time.

5. Got a meeting? Take a walk

“ … there’s this amazing thing about actually getting out of the box that leads to out-of-the-box thinking.”

This talk offers a seemingly obvious fix for improving meetings: taking a walk. Entrepreneur Nilofer Merchant says that walking while meeting not only gives you a breath of fresh air, it can also help freshen up your thinking.

6. 5 ways to kill your dreams

“The only way to really achieve all of your dreams is to fully enjoy every step of your journey.”

Successful business owners avoid a few common modes of thinking, according to entrepreneur Bel Pesce. Don’t fall prey to these thoughts, Pesce says, like believing that someone else has all the answers — they definitely don’t. Watch this talk to learn how to approach your business with a more positive outlook.

7. 3 ways to (usefully) lose control of your brand

“[Companies] have more control over the loss of control than ever before. They can design for it. But how?”

This talk will teach you about the value of encouraging social conversations around your brand. While it might feel counterintuitive at first, forgoing control of these discussions can enhance your team’s creativity, along with driving other big changes, says CMO and author Tim Leberecht.

8. Why work doesn’t happen at work

“You don’t have a work day anymore. You have work moments.”

Software entrepreneur Jason Fried discusses how to give your office a productivity makeover so your team can feel more focused and creative. One way to do this, says Fried, is to institute “No Talk Thursdays,” so employees can have laser-sharp focus on the things they have to accomplish.

9. The mystery box

“What are stories but mystery boxes?… You go to the theater, you’re just so excited to see anything. The moment the lights go down is often the best part.”

Filmmaker J.J. Abrams tells the story of a family gift that ended up spawning his entire moviemaking philosophy. Tune in to this talk to learn how you can infuse storytelling into your business by focusing on one crucial and often-overlooked element.

10. Lead like the great conductors

“… the important thing is this happiness does not come from only his own story and his joy of the music. The joy is about enabling other people’s stories to be heard at the same time.”

Former Israeli conductor, Itay Talgam, finds inspiration in the way conductors elevate symphonies into works of art. In this talk, Talgam takes viewers on a trip through music history, and shares the leadership lessons he’s learned from some of the greatest conductors of all time.

Not in the mood for a video? All lectures also come with a transcript and MP3 file for those moments you’d rather read or listen on the go. Any way you take them in, each talk will help you take a step back from your daily routine and reframe the way you think about the world.

Updated: January 5, 2021

Kira Deutch
Kira Deutch Kira Deutch is a former Gusto editor. She has a background in publishing and content marketing for startups.


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