The best TED talks for small businesses

Published: 01/09/2020

With everything that’s going on in the world right now, it can be easy to feel bogged down and lacking in motivation - even without a global pandemic, life as a business owner is hectic and there are never enough hours in the day.

So, if you’re in need of a little inspiration and a kick up the proverbial, you’re in the right place. We love nothing more than watching small businesses thrive, so let us take one thing off your plate and help inject a little oomph into your business with our guide to the 10 best TED talks to motivate and inspire.

What is a TED talk?

Before we dive right into it, for those who’re new to the world of TED talks let us explain.

In a nutshell, TED talks are videos created from presentations. They’re limited to a maximum of 18 minutes long but are often much shorter - perfect for anyone who doesn’t have hours to spare - and can be on any topic.

The videos come from either the TED (technology, entertainment, design) conference or one of the heaps of satellite conventions held around the world.

According to the TEDx website, “TED looks for engaging, charismatic speakers whose talks expose new ideas that are supported by concrete evidence and are relevant to a broad, international audience.”

The top 10 TED talks to inspire small businesses

While a TED talk can be on any topic, many are on the subject of running a business and can provide golden nuggets for small business owners from a wide range of industries.

There’s a wealth of talks to choose from, but here are our top 10 picks to get you started.

1. 8 secrets of success

We’ll kick things off with this short but sweet gem from analyst Richard St. John. In his talk, he shares eight key secrets to success gleaned from interviews, conducted over several years, with super successful individuals.

Do people succeed because they’re a genius or is it all pot luck? Find out the answers in this 3-minute masterpiece. 

2. The single biggest reason why start-ups succeed

On the subject of success, this talk from Bill Gross is all about why some small businesses succeed and others fail. Based on his own experiences founding businesses and helping others do the same, Bill Gross started to wonder what the key to getting it right was.

To work it out he collected data from 100s of businesses, including some of his own, and ranked them all on five factors. What’s the key factor in succeeding? He shares the surprising results in this talk.

3. How to stay calm when you know you’ll be stressed

As a small business owner no doubt you’re all too familiar with feeling stressed - it’s an unavoidable part of the job - but what you can control is how you handle that stress.

The premise of this TED talk by neuroscientist Daniel Levitin is that stress can cause us to make unnecessary mistakes because it clouds our judgment. However, learning how to stay calm and think ahead could avoid costly mistakes and ultimately benefit your businesses.

Levitin shares strategies for both managing and avoiding stress in order to improve decision making in this talk.

4. How too many rules at work keep you from getting things done 

Do you consider yourself a pretty laid back boss? Or is relinquishing control hard for you? If every decision made in your business has to be run by you first, Yves Morieux suggests you might actually be hampering your business’ potential.

In this talk learn how too many rules could stifle your business and why Morieux suggests cooperation is the new frontier of productivity.

5. Five ways to kill your dreams

“If you have dreams, it’s your responsibility to make them happen” according to Brazilian entrepreneur Bel Pesce, host of this motivational TED talk.

Bel talks us through five easy to believe myths which rather than bolster your business could actually be its downfall.

6. Two reasons companies fail and how to avoid them

In this 10-minute TED talk business strategist Knut Haanaes explains how to hit that sweet spot between perfecting what you already know about your business and exploring innovative ideas. 

According to Haanaes these two principles - exploring and exploiting, when balanced just right, are not only an art but the secret to success for small businesses. He shares his insights on achieving that balance in this talk.

7. The happy secret to better work

Even if running your own business has always been your dream job, it’s not always easy to be cheery 24/7, but Havard psychologist Shawn Achor argues you can train your brain to be just that in his entertaining TED talk.

What’s the secret? We won’t give everything away but he believes it’s all about changing our view on the world using positive psychology - the more optimistic we are the better work we’ll achieve and ultimately the more success we’ll have running a business. 

This one’s a must for anyone feeling like they’ve lost their sparkle at work!

8. How to succeed? Get more sleep

In the business world, you’ll often hear people playing a competitive game of “guess how little sleep I got last night?” as if the less you get the more dedicated you really are to succeeding. 

Sound familiar? In this brief but informative talk, Arianna Huffington debunks the myth and shares the power of a good night’s sleep. She encourages business owners to see the bigger picture by shutting their eyes and argues we can sleep our way to better decision-making and improved productivity.

9. What I learned from 100 days of rejection

The thought of being rejected is enough to send a shiver down most of our spines, but in this TED talk, Jia Jiang shares how he took a deep dive into the nightmarish world of rejection and came out of the other side with a fresh outlook.

Jiang argues that while rejection might feel painful at the time, the process of simply asking for exactly what it is that you want can open up doors you thought were closed to you. 

It’s that old chestnut, ‘you don’t ask, you don’t get’, and there are some valuable lessons to be taken from this one for small business owners who might be afraid to take the next steps.

10. The surprising habits of original thinkers

Our last top pick also touches on the idea of rejection or failure as an important element of business success. 

Organisational psychologist Adam Grant shares the three unexpected habits of ‘original thinkers’ - people who come up with innovative ideas and have the drive to release them into the world.

In his TED talk, Grant argues that the greatest ‘originals’ of them all are those who fail the most because it shows they’re trying the hardest, and lists Martin Luther King Jr and Leonardo Davinci as two or the ‘greatest originals’ in history.

Feeling inspired? You can find heaps of useful and motivation talks here, or for more help, advice, and guidance tailored specifically with small businesses in mind check out our jam-packed blog. 

Bryony Pearce

Bryony Pearce

Copywriter

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