u12 of the Best TED Talks for Entrepreneurs

By: Keith Krach

Entrepreneurs steer the business world in new directions. Such individuals tend to be risk takers who have the drive, passion, and spark of creativity that are required to innovate new products and disrupt entire markets. For aspiring startup owners and serial entrepreneurs, here are 12 thought-provoking TED Talks to inspire and motivate you.

1. Where Good Ideas Come From — Steven Johnson

A veteran of the tech industry and a talented researcher, Steven Johnson gives his take on the origin of ideas, leaning on examples from several diverse fields. He attempts to discredit the notion that big ideas come in single, defining moments by presenting examples from history. Johnson packs humor and insight into this popular talk.

2. 5 Ways to Kill Your Dreams — Bel Pesce

Bel Pesce is an MIT graduate with a wealth of experience in the business, technology, and finance sectors. During her career, she has observed what works and what doesn’t in terms of turning dreams into reality. In this TED Talk, Pesce outlines five beliefs that will keep people dreaming instead of doing.

3. Success, Failure and the Drive to Keep Creating — Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote the memoir Eat, Pray, Love, which later became a major motion picture; Committed; and The Signature of All Things. Before that breakthrough moment in her career, however, she was no stranger to rejection letters. Drawing on her experience as an author, she offers insight on how to push forward through obstacles and outcomes.

4. How to Find Work You Love — Scott Dinsmore

An inspiring entrepreneur, Scott Dinsmore decided to leave a large company to search for what would bring him the most professional satisfaction. The journey lasted roughly four years, and he subsequently set out to help people identify their own passions. What he learned along the way is the basis of this talk.

5. The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers — Adam Grant

Wharton professor Adam Grant focuses his research in the discipline of organizational psychology. In his most recent publication, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, he also explores the origin of ideas, as well as how people put them in motion. Grant’s talk draws on his findings, which may surprise some people.

6. Creative Problem-Solving in the Face of Extreme Limits — Navi Radjou

Best-selling author and Cambridge fellow Navi Radjou studies the interface of frugality and innovation, or a concept known as “jugaad.” He is interested in how entrepreneurs in developing markets generate record-setting value from limited resources, either by choice or out of necessity. Radjou gives a few suggestions for putting “jugaad” into practice.

7. Want to Innovate? Become a “Now-ist” — Joi Ito

Billed as a “relentless mind,” Joi Ito directs the MIT Media Lab, where he oversees innovation on a regular basis. He focuses his talk on his own approach to creativity, which is based on acting fast and constantly refining ideas, without waiting for proof of success. This alternative approach is centered on the present, instead of the future.

8. Why the Best Hire Might Not Have the Perfect Resume — Regina Hartley

Part of being an entrepreneur involves surrounding yourself with the right talent, and human resources director Regina Hartley presents an interesting take on hiring. In this lecture, she discusses the kinds of characteristics and qualities that don’t always make it on paper, but that nonetheless can indicate a high potential for success.

9. Meet a Young Entrepreneur, Cartoonist, Designer, Activist… — Maya Penn

Entrepreneurial prodigy Maya Penn launched her first company at age 8, and she hasn’t looked back since. Her current pursuits include animation, designing eco-friendly clothing, and teaching other kids how to bring their ideas to life. Penn leverages the TED platform to share her experience and inspire viewers.

10. Let’s Raise Kids to Be Entrepreneurs — Cameron Herold

Cameron Herold is also passionate about helping the next generation of entrepreneurs realize their potential. As a mentor of business leaders, he has learned to recognize when people — particularly children — have an aptitude for entrepreneurship. In his talk, he makes an argument for why kids struggling in school might be capable of starting the next big company.

11. Do What You Love (No Excuses!) — Gary Vaynerchuk

Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk is a major advocate for the endless possibilities that the Internet has brought us. On stage at TED, he makes the case that the online economy reduces, if not removes, the excuses and doubt that people might have for not pursuing what they truly care about. Vaynerchuk encourages listeners with big ideas to take the next step.

12. Africa’s Cheetahs Versus Hippos — George Ayittey

George Ayittey, an economist from Ghana, uses an analogy to illustrate what entrepreneurs must do to ignite the business sector in Africa, though his comments apply to anyone trying to make a difference anywhere. He compares traditional entities to hippos, which are complacent and largely immovable. In contrast, he describes the ideal entrepreneur as a cheetah — fast-moving and adaptive.