If you’ve read this Tip of the Week series for any period of time, you’ve likely seen the many TED Talks I’ve posted to help illustrate a point or illuminate a topic. If not, then today you get the pleasure of meeting TED.

TED Talks touch on a wide variety of topics from politics to business to the arts to humanity. The TED website describes itself as follows, “TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.”

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TED Talks for Small Business

While a TED Talk can be anything from a music performance to a comedy performance, to a serious lecture on the future of humanity, many are either business or technology related and provide helpful advice for small business owners in a variety of industries. If you can’t make it to a live event, check out the following 10 TED Talks, carefully curated by me, that provide insights, advice, and strategies that will help make your small business a success. (A few of these hit the standard TED 18 minute mark, but most are far shorter.)

1. James Veitch: This is what happens when you reply to spam email

A recent Tip of the Week post What Responding To Spam Can Teach About Optimizing Small Business Sales, featured two TED Talks from comedian James Veitch regarding his escapades with responding to 419 scam email. If you haven’t seen the post, here’s the first one again:

When you’re done laughing pop-over to the original post to see the second video (and learn a bit more about small business sales and marketing).

2. Pamela Meyer: How to spot a liar

Myer notes that, “on any given day we’re lied to from 10 to 200 times” and that trained listeners can spot a lie 94% of the time while untrained listeners can only do it 54% of the time. In some cases, such as those little white lies others tell to help you save face, we are complicit collaborators in lying. While in others, such as important business dealings, knowing how to identify lies—and to create an environment of truth—can provide a strategic advantage. Her talk provides some tips for identifying deception.

3. Giorgia Lupi: How we can find ourselves in data

As a small business owner you are likely very keyed-in to the data you have about your business and your customers. In this talk Lupi warns about the danger of acting strictly based on cold data, and suggests the many advantages to be gained from humanizing that data and building models that take personal stories, not just numbers, into account.

4. Richard St. John: 8 secrets of success

This three and a half minute short (from 2005, but still relevant), culls from “years” of interviews with successful people of all ilks and industries, and boils down success to 8 key secrets.

5. Bill Gross: The single biggest reason why startups succeed

Now you know the secrets of success in general, so we turn to success of start-ups in particular. Idealab founder Bill Gross digs into reasons why his projects succeeded or failed, and looks at other start-up successes and failures, to come up with the single biggest influencing factor. It surprised him. Will it surprise you?

6. Tim Leberecht: 4 ways to build a human company in the age of machines

It may seem that machines and automation, efficiency and optimization, and dollars and profits are relentlessly driving every business; even those small businesses founded on passion and exuberance. Leberech suggests, as many small service business owners have long known, that this can be a recipe for disaster. This entertaining talk explains why the “kill the orange balloon mentality” will doom a company to failure, and how companies that are designed for organizational intimacy and that embrace asking questions and remaining in an “incomplete” state will likely be the ones that succeed.

7. Regina Hartley: Why the best hire might not have the perfect resume

Hiring the best team is one of the most important things a small business owner can do. But, in this talk Hartley explains why the perfect-looking polished ivy league candidate may not really be the one you want for your team. She suggests that when faced with two qualified candidates, rather than picking the “silver spoon” candidate, you should instead strongly consider the “scrapper” who will likely have a “patchwork quilt” resume that lacks polish and focus but speaks to a “committed struggle against obstacles.” After all she asks, if your whole life has been engineered towards success, how will you handle the inevitable setbacks and failures?

8. Steven Johnson: The playful wonderland behind great inventions

One thing that makes a successful small business owner is the ability to find gaps and invent solutions. But where do these new ideas come from? Johnson posits that new ideas come into the world from a desire to have fun. For example he traces the modern computer back to the ancient invention of the music box. “Necessity isn’t always the mother of invention” he notes “you’ll find the future wherever the people are having the most fun.”

9. Derek Sivers: Weird, or just different?

This 2.5 minute short invites us to go to the opposite side of the world to learn that “assumptions we didn’t even know we had are not necessarily true.”

10. James Veitch: The agony of trying to unsubscribe

As with many TED Talks, this list ends where it began: with James Veitch. In this talk he recounts how after being unable to unsubscribe from unwanted marketing email he created an endless do-loop of correspondence with the unobliging sender. “The internet gave us access to everything, but it also gave everything access to us.” Veitch notes, “ Don’t fight the frustration, let it be the catalyst for whimsy.”

Attend TED Talks at a Cinema Near You

Hopefully you took the time to watch some, if not all, of the TED Talks provided above. If so, did you call anyone over to watch, or forward or share any (or this whole post—hint, hint) with friends or colleagues? If you didn’t then you missed one of the key elements of TED Talks: the sharing and examination of ideas among similarly inquisitive (but definitely not like-minded) people.

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Lisa Hephner

Lisa Hephner

My name is Lisa, and I'm the Vice President of Knowledge, responsible for the management of corporate, product, competitor, marketplace, legal, and regulatory knowledge, and creation and dissemination of knowledge tools using these assets to PaySimple prospects, customers, employees, and partners.

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