Since they were first released online in 2006, TED Talks have proven a fantastic repository of some of the world's greatest minds – especially in business and technology.
However, with over 2,600 of them accessible for free, sifting through them and looking for the most relevant ones can be a bit of slog. Therefore, to make things a little easier – and to provide some entrepreneurial inspiration – we've curated a list of the nine best TED Talks for business.
The majority of these speeches are short and sharp – less than 20 minutes, in most cases – so if you’re looking for a little thought guidance, this is where you should start:
Simon Sinek | "How Great Leaders Inspire Action."
The third most-viewed TED Talk of all time, this 2009 address is an exceptional examination of how great leaders can incite great work. Beginning with the Wright Brothers and using examples of modern innovation right the way through to Apple, Simon Sinek digs deep to understand why passion often excels over better-equipped competitors.
This is an excellent reference point if you are starting your own business, with marketer-turned-author Sinek establishing the importance of finding people who are driven by the same passion for success as you.
Elon Musk | "The Future We're Building – and Boring."
One of the most appealing things about the TED Talks format is that it offers such a diverse and interesting range of speakers. In this example from 2017, renowned Fortune 500 CEO Elon Musk is on hand to share his thoughts, providing insight into what has made his previous ventures successful and what his vision for the future is.
At some forty-plus minutes, the video is somewhat long for a TED Talk. However, the opportunity to hear such a successful and established entrepreneur talk about his experiences – including the lessons learned from his time at Tesla, SpaceX and PayPal – is well worth the time.
Bill Gross | "The Single Biggest Reason Why Start-ups Succeed."
As the CEO of Idealab, a renowned business incubator in Silicon Valley, Bill Gross has helped dozens of startups grow and become successful. In this TED Talk from 2015, he uses his experiences – as well as detailed research – to discuss what the most critical elements of success and failure are as a new venture.
One of the things that sets this talk apart – and what makes it such an excellent viewing choice for entrepreneurs – is Gross's willingness to discuss when the data counters his own expectations. He then works to understand why our predictions are different than what works in the real world, yielding invaluable insights for anyone with a new idea for a business.
Steve Jobs | "How to Live Before You Die."
Although TED Talks were popularised by their online release in 2006, they have existed in an invitational conference form since 1984. As a result, there is a rich archive of monologues, one of which is this 2005 commencement speech from the late Apple founder, Steve Jobs, given to graduates at Stanford University some six years before his death.
In the talk, Jobs candidly discusses some of the biggest failures of his professional career and how they spurred his biggest successes. He talks about business mantras that kept him motivated during his most difficult periods and how they kept him focused on achieving his goals. As one of the most influential entrepreneurs and technology innovators of the last century, the opportunity to hear Jobs discuss his career in such an open manner is certainly not one to be missed.
Bel Pesche | "Five Ways to Kill Your Dreams."
As a renowned entrepreneur and writer, Bel Pesche discusses common business obstacles that leaders often face in this 2014 talk (delivered when Pesche was just 27). She speaks about her own challenges to finding success in Silicon Valley and, as the title suggests, deconstructs five myths that keep people from realising what they hope to accomplish in their professional life.
With her easy-going conversational style and straightforward advice on how to push for success, the Brazilian-born MIT graduate offers invaluable advice on how to move a business forward – and what not to do along the way.
Rosalinde Torres | "What It Takes to Be a Great Leader."
In this 2013 talk, BCG consultant Rosalinde Torres discusses what she has learned during her 25 years of finding and enabling great leaders. She also looks at organisations that she was a part of where strong leadership was stunted, and what factors inhibited these organisations from realising their higher objectives.
Throughout the talk, Torres lays out three simple questions that leaders should ask themselves about their company if they want to build an environment that fosters success. This is a highly recommended monologue for businesses that are expanding and want to ensure that they are building the most effective teams possible.
Shawn Achor | "The Happy Secret to Better Work."
A renowned advocate of positive psychology, and the bestselling author of "The Happiness Advantage", Shawn Achor details his mindset in this 2011 TED Talk. In this humorous and anecdote filled lecture, Achor explains how positivity can have measurable benefits in the workplace, and that while it is easier to be focused on the negative elements of our experience, the most significant increases in productivity come from positive sources.
Achor also invites the listener to flip the script on how we measure success in the workplace. He posits that happiness does not come from success, but rather, happiness leads to success. Although other academics and thought leaders have debated his ideas, this is an excellent entry point for entrepreneurs who are trying to make changes to their corporate culture and increase workplace productivity at the same time.
Seth Godin | "How to Get Your Ideas to Spread."
In this archived 2003 talk, marketing guru Seth Godin shares a fascinating insight into how you can make your products stand out in a crowded field and, although it is now some 17 years old, the concepts and ideas discussed still hold true today.
Citing sliced bread as an example, Godin illustrates how even the very best products can have a slow start unless they are marketed correctly, explaining that a remarkable product is only useful if you can convince your target audience of that fact.
Godin also discusses how those target markets have shifted in recent years. Where advertising in the era before the internet was designed to reach the widest market possible, the most successful innovations of the modern era have been designed for early adopters. By finding what the people who are most passionate about your product are looking for, you can open up new avenues to reach a dedicated audience and help your ideas spread – a strategy that is as effective in 2020 as it was in 2003.
Dan Pink | "The Puzzle of Motivation."
If you are experiencing problems keeping your team motivated, then check out Dan Pink's excellent 2009 talk on the subject. A bestselling author and former speechwriter, Pink has spent his professional life as a career analyst and, in this lecture, discusses why traditional incentive methods are no longer effective in the modern workplace.
Pink is an entertaining and illuminating speaker, and his talk is both informative and elucidating. At twenty minutes, it is relatively lengthy, but the lessons on teamwork and autonomy that you will take away from the discussion are well worth the time.
Ultimately, you never know which ideas will help you solve the issues you are facing while running your own company, and it's always wise to access as many resources and learning tools as you possibly can. By diving into these TED Talks – and, indeed, exploring the thousands of other readily available speeches – you can find a great selection of advice and inspiration from some of the most influential experts in their fields.
Do you have a favourite TED Talk on entrepreneurship or business? Let us know in the comment section below!