Business, Education, Entrepreneurship, Productivity, Success

11 Inspirational TED Talks for Entrepreneurs

While the path to entrepreneurship can vary, it starts with a great idea. Entrepreneurs are driven to turn their ideas into reality, grow a business, and produce something new and better.

Entrepreneurship and brainstorming go hand in hand. The best startup leaders are constantly thinking, reading, and networking to generate new thoughts and refine their ideas. Entrepreneurs looking for their big “Aha!” moment should consider the following TED Talks that discuss creativity and different approaches for interacting to spur new ways of thinking.

  1. Where Good Ideas Come From – Steven Johnson

As someone who has dedicated his career to the study of innovation, Steven Johnson has found that ideas tend to develop over time rather than emerge in an instant. He cites examples ranging from Charles Darwin to the latest Internet trends to illustrate the value that stems from gradual processes and the hope one can place in them.

  1. What I Learned from 100 Days of Rejection – Jia Jiang

The fear of rejection can quickly paralyze creativity and entrepreneurship. Jia Jiang, the owner of Rejection Therapy and the CEO of Wuju Learning, decided to overcome this fear by facing it head on. He deliberately looked for “no” answers from anyone and everyone he could. In this talk, he shares his experiences and how doors opened even when he expected them to close.

  1. How Frustration Can Make Us More Creative – Tim Harford

Tim Harford is the author of Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure, in which he argues for the value of frustration in the creative process. In this talk, he uses as an example a best-selling solo piano album, a recording from a concert which wasn’t supposed to happen in the first place.

  1. Creative Problem-Solving in the Face of Extreme Limits – Navi Radjou

Along with rejection and frustration, a limited number of resources often restrain brainstorming, leading entrepreneurs to dream as big as their perceived restraints allow. Navi Radjou, a Cambridge fellow, offers a new perspective on creating real value from meager means by discussing the methods of “jugaad,” or frugal innovation.

  1. The Big Idea My Brother Inspired – Jamie Heywood

The founder of the ALS Therapy Development Institute, Jamie Heywood is a prime example of someone making the most out of adversity. He established the institute and PatientsLikeMe in response to his brother’s ALS diagnosis. Today, these nonprofits provide valuable resources to individuals and families affected by this illness.

  1. How to Get Your Ideas to Spread – Seth Godin

Seth Godin has built his career on creating and spreading ideas. In his 2003 TED Talk, he reflected on the disparity between time and options and the belief that the more outlandish an idea, the more attention it will receive. He argues against the ordinary and offers a few suggestions for achieving the opposite.

  1. Your Elusive Creative Genius – Elizabeth Gilbert

During her career, Elizabeth Gilbert has written multiple best-selling books of all genres, including Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things. At the heart of her work has been an emphasis on creativity and genius. Her experience has taught her that genius is a shared gift, one that everyone has access to, but that only a few allow themselves to access.

  1. The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers – Adam Grant

Adam Grant, a Wharton professor, recently wrote Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. His TED Talk explores the same theme. In the course of his research, he has found that the number of good ideas correlate with a massive amount of bad ideas. In other words, the more one tries, the greater the odds are of succeeding.

  1. Where Does Creativity Hide? – Amy Tan

One of the most influential fiction writers of her time, Amy Tan wrote The Joy Luck Club and The Hundred Secret Senses, among other best sellers. She leverages her platform on the TED stage to relate her own experience with the creative process and how she found her voice as an author, rather than as a concert pianist or physician.

  1. Your Brain on Improv – Dr. Charles Limb

Dr. Charles Limb takes a medical approach to the topic of creativity by studying the cognitive activity of musicians engaged in improvisation. Through this research, he offers a few ways of applying the knowledge that he and his colleagues have gained in the pursuit of new ideas in any arena, musical or otherwise.

  1. Taking Imagination Seriously – Janet Echelman

Along the same lines as the concept of “jugaad,” Janet Echelman advocates for the value that one can create in the absence of orthodox materials. Her position that having less can actually grant access to the deeper layers of one’s imagination translates well to the first-time entrepreneur who starts from essentially nothing.


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