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7 inspiring TED Talks for small business owners

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7 inspiring TED Talks for small business owners

Updated: March 27th, 2020

7 inspiring TED Talks for small business owners

As a business owner, you probably need an occasional dose of inspiration to keep you going. While there are plenty of great options, TED Talks rank among the best.

Not only are they free and easy to listen to on your lunch break or commute, but each video also provides the ideal combination of insight, motivation, and practical advice.

Whether you’re stressed, struggling with a problem at work, or simply searching for creative ways to improve your business, we’ve got you covered.

Here are seven inspiring TED Talks for small business owners.  

1. The single biggest reason why startups succeed

If you’ve ever wondered what separates successful startups from businesses that never get off the ground, look no further than this six-minute talk.

Drawing on data gathered from hundreds of businesses such as Airbnb and Instagram, Idealab founder Bill Gross outlines five key variables involved in the success or failure of any given company.

Gross points out that the primary driver of success isn’t money, employee talent, or quality of the product — it’s timing.

He concludes by explaining how you can use timing to your advantage when building your own business.

2. How to manage for collective creativity

Creativity can be a mystifying concept, but this TED Talk breaks it down. Harvard professor and ethnographer Linda Hill says creativity is an ongoing process — one that every member of a company has the right to take part in.

After observing leaders of innovation from different countries and industries across the globe, Hill discovered a pattern: innovation starts with smart leadership.

She goes on to explain that creative genius isn’t built from one single “aha” moment or idea; rather, it’s the result of conflicting opinions, collaborative problem-solving, and plenty of trial and error.

3. 4 ways to build a human company in the age of machines

Tim Leberecht’s TED Talk should be mandatory viewing for every business owner who cares about the people behind the product.

In this era of artificial intelligence and rapid technological expansion, Leberecht asks how we can build human-based companies instead of relying on robots to do our jobs.

To start, he argues for a business model that prizes authenticity over efficiency and beauty over precision. His four principles for building a more humanistic company emphasize the emotional and social elements involved in running a business, like how to create a culture of joy and how to foster camaraderie amongst co-workers.

4. How to run a company with almost no rules

If you’re disillusioned by the conventions of traditional workplace culture, this TED talk is for you. CEO Ricardo Semler encourages his listeners to rethink what it means to run a company. He shares his experiences with giving his employees more freedom around their workload, salaries, hours, and more — and asks the question: how can we eschew traditional practices to find a more effective, fulfilling way of operating a business?

5. 5 ways to lead in an era of constant change

This TED Talk will totally upend your notion of change — namely, that it’s scary and difficult to deal with.

Organizational change expert Jim Hemerling explains the value in learning how to embrace change in a work setting. After all, businesses constantly have to adapt — to competitors, customer demands, a changing market, and more.

Rather than viewing these organizational changes as daunting, Hemerling argues that you can make them exciting. In his talk, he shares five strategies, all centered around putting people first, to help you reorganize your company and lead with grace.

6. Two reasons companies fail – and how to avoid them

Most business owners are itching to know the secret to achieving success — and this TED Talk delivers.

Business strategist Knut Haanaes shares two main reasons why many companies fail, then explains what it takes to build a successful company.

The key, he says, is learning to find the balance between exploration and exploitation; in other words, figuring out a way to develop new skills while simultaneously honing the ones you already have.

7. Profit’s not always the point

If the pressure to earn big money from your business has you feeling jaded or uninspired, watch this TED Talk.

Harish Manwani, COO of Unilever, shatters the idea that a successful company is simply a profitable one. If modern companies want to be successful and sustainable, he says, they need to play a larger role in the communities that help support their business.

To do that, he argues for creating companies that have a purpose beyond turning a profit — businesses that don’t just offer economic value, but that provide social and cultural value, too. As Manwani says, it’s not enough to do well — you also have to do good.


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