By Kelsey Fox
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about TED talks — the phenomenal series of short powerful talks on thought-provoking topics. Each year, dozens of business-themed TED talks are released and viewed by hundreds of thousands — sometimes even millions! — of people, and 2014 was no different. From a plan to save the world from useless meetings, to an inside glimpse at the designing of Facebook’s “like” button, the 25 TED talks on this list are the best of the business category for 2014. Though there were certainly more than 25 exciting discussions to take the TED stage last year, the following have been ranked according to the number of views they received and (in the case of a near tie) ratings by viewers.
1. Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe — Simon Sinek
With over 3.1 million views, Simon Sinek’s “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe” was the most popular business-themed TED talk of 2014. Sinek, a highly-respected management theorist, discusses the idea that job titles, ranks, and organization skills have very little to do with one’s leadership abilities. Leadership, argues Sinek, is more innate, and the most effective leaders are those who make their employees feel secure. To illustrate his idea, Sinek uses real-life examples of generals, captains, CEOs, airline attendants, and Marines.
2. As Work Gets More Complex, 6 Rules to Simplify — Yves Morieux
Yves Morieux, a highly-respected business consultant, theorizes that the best way for companies to modernize in the wake of more complex business environments is simply to simplify. To do this, Morieux proposes six simplification rules that include giving managers the freedom to make cooperation happen without having to enforce complicated structures, empowering everyone to use their judgement and intelligence, and rewarding those who cooperate. Morieux uses examples from companies he has worked with to support the theory that simplifying complicated businesses works to shift focus away from organization structures and towards success and improvement.
3. The Power of Believing That You Can Improve — Carol Dweck
Carol Dweck is a Stanford Psychology professor and an influential researcher in the field of motivation — specifically, why people do or do not succeed, and how to best encourage success. In her popular TED talk “The Power of Believing That You Can Improve,” Dweck discusses her topic of expertise, “growth mindset,” the idea that we can grow our brain’s capacity to learn and to solve problems. The talk challenges viewers with a problem that is seemingly too difficult to solve. However, with Dweck’s guidance, viewers will see that the problem is difficult not because they aren’t smart enough, but because they simply haven’t solved the problem yet!
4. The Career Advice You Probably Didn’t Get — Susan Colantuono
“The Career Advice You Probably Didn’t Get” is aimed at those who are doing everything right at work, taking the right advice, but still not progressing in their careers the way they had hoped. Susan Colantuono, the founder and CEO of Leading Women, a management consulting firm that empowers women, shares a simple and surprising piece of advice that you may not have heard spoken quite so plainly: to succeed, we must focus on developing and demonstrating the skills that show we understand our business. Though Colantuono’s talk is mainly aimed at women, its takeaways are suitable for men, women, new graduates, and those in the middle of a career.
5. What It Takes to be a Great Leader — Roselinde Torres
Leadership programs are a dime a dozen these days, but Roselinde Torres theorizes that the best way to learn how to be a leader is right under our noses. In her straightforward and highly entertaining TED talk, “What it Takes to be a Great Leader,” Torres describes what she has learned in the 25 years she has spent observing and helping leaders for BCG, a business consulting firm. She also shares a series of simple, but crucial, questions would-be company chiefs need to ask in order to experience future success, starting with “Are you courageous enough to abandon a practice that has made you successful in the past?”
6. Why Giving Away Our Wealth Has Been the Most Satisfying Thing We’ve Done — Melinda Gates and Bill Gates
In this popular TED talk, viewed by over 2 million people upon its debut, Bill and Melinda Gates sit down with Chris Anderson to discuss the fateful walk on the beach they took in 1993, during which they decided to give their Microsoft wealth back to society. Viewers will hear the couple discuss their work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, their successful marriage, their children, their inevitable failures, and the satisfaction they receive from giving most of their money away to deserving individuals and organizations.
7. Where’s Google Going Next? — Larry Page
Everyone knows Google is one of the most innovative and exciting companies on the planet. In this eye-opening TED talk, Charlie Rose interviews Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page about his far-off vision for the company. Page illustrates a myriad of ideas, including aerial bikeways and internet balloons. But perhaps most excitingly, Page discusses the acquisition of Deep Mind, an Artificial Intelligence that has Google very excited about the future.
8. How Giant Websites Design for You (and a Billion Others, Too) — Margaret Gould Stewart
Margaret Gould Stewart is the “user experience master,” responsible for designing user experience elements for Facebook (and previously for YouTube). In her TED talk, “How Giant Websites Design for You (and a Billion Others, Too), Stewart discusses how her designs for Facebook’s “like” and “share” buttons have become some of the most-viewed design elements ever created (they are seen 22 billion times a day!). For those interested in doing what she does — or who are just fascinated — Stewart outlines three rules for design at a level so massive that the smallest of changes can cause global outrage, or improve the lives of millions.
9. Profit’s Not Always the Point — Harish Manwani
Harish Manwani joined Unilever, a major global corporation, in 1976 as a management trainee. Today, he is the company’s Chief Operating Officer. In “Profit’s Not Always the Point,” Manwani makes the surprising argument that C.O.O.s should consider their jobs to include looking beyond balance sheets and bottom lines. In fact, Manwani argues that looking past the obvious and including value, purpose, and sustainability in top-level decision making is the only way to responsibly run a 21st century business and achieve 21st century success.
10. How to Rob a Bank (From the Inside, That Is) — William Black
William Black, a former bank regulator, has seen firsthand how banking systems can be used to commit fraud. In his fascinating TED talk, “How to Rob a Bank (From the Inside, That Is),” Black describes the most common underhanded tactics used by banks leading up to the 2008 U.S. banking crisis that threatened the global economy. In an especially interesting segment, Black describes the concept of “liar’s loans” as a warning to consumers and bankers alike who are worried about future economic catastrophe. Black is currently a a professor of economics and law at University of Missouri – Kansas City.
11. Color Blind or Color Brave? — Mellody Hobson
Mellody Hobson knows that race can be a touchy subject, but in her TED talk “Color Blind or Color Brave?,” Hobson refers to it as the “conversational third rail” that society simply must start talking about. Engaging and persuasive, Hobson theorizes that discussing race more openly makes for better businesses and better society. And Hobson should know; she is the president of Ariel Investments, a value-driven money management firm, and an advocate for financial literacy and investor education.
12. How to Save the World (or at Least Yourself) From Bad Meetings — David Grady
Somewhere near the beginning of his TED talk, “How to Save the World (or at Least Yourself) From Bad Meetings,” David Grady makes the amusing statement: “Every day, we allow our coworkers, who are otherwise very, very nice people, to steal from us.” Grady is referring to the stealing of time, and theorizes that unorganized, badly run meetings have become a global epidemic. Though his speech is on the shorter end of the average TED talk, Grady packs a big punch with his suggestions on how to subtly initiate a change in office meeting organization.
13. Be an Opportunity Maker — Kare Anderson
Kare Anderson, a Forbes columnist who writes on behavioral research-based ways to become more deeply connected, knows that every person wants to be able to use their natural talents to create a meaningful life. She also knows that most people — especially those who are shy — question how to do that. In her TED talk, “Be an Opportunity Maker,” Anderson shares her own story of chronic shyness, and how she was eventually able to open up her world by helping others to use their talents and passions to better themselves.
14. What’s Wrong With Your Pa$$w0rd? — Lorrie Faith Cranor
In this fascinating TED talk applicable to anyone with internet access, Lorrie Faith Cranor discusses the common mistakes users, businesses, and even secured sites make that compromise their security. To research these mistakes, Cranor studied thousands of real passwords. And how did she gain access to these “thousands of real passwords?” Well, that’s a story that makes for an especially interesting segment of Cranor’s talk, in which she offers viewers the secret data every password user should know. Cranor currently studies online privacy, usable security, phishing, and spam at Carnegie Mellon University.
15. An Ultra-Low-Cost College Degree — Shai Reshef
At University of the People, run by Shai Reshef, anyone with a high school diploma can take classes towards an Associate’s or Bachelor degree in business administration or computer science. Better yet, they can do so tuition free (though exams do cost minimal fees). In his TED talk, Reshef, who founded the university, discusses how he hopes that higher education can evolve from “a privilege for the few to a basic right, affordable and accessible for all.” In 2910, the Huffington Post called Reshef the “Ultimate Game Changer in education.”
16. The 3 Agencies With the Power to Make or Break Economics — Annette Heuser
In her TED talk, “The 3 Agencies With the Power to Make or Break Economics,” rating agency reformer Annette Heuser argues that the way national economies are currently rated is all wrong. Heuser explains that three private U.S.-based credit rating agencies use obscure and mysterious methods to wield immense power over hundreds of national economies around the world. In this bold and eye-opening talk, Heuser works to persuade viewers that a better, safer rating system begins with a nonprofit agency that would bring more equality and justice into the mix.
17. The Workforce Crisis of 2030 – And How to Start Solving It Now — Rainer Strack
Rainer Strack, a human resources expert at a leading business consulting firm, declares that by 2030 many of the world’s largest economies will have more jobs than working adult citizens. Throughout his talk, Strack presents a series of convincing data to support such a frightening claim. He also suggests that to avoid this workforce crisis, countries should begin to change the culture of their businesses and look across borders for job seekers who are mobile and willing.
18. How Data Will Transform Business — Philip Evans
In his TED talk, “How Data Will Transform Business,” Philip Evans argues that the massive amount of data shared by competing groups will prove to be the new force that will rule future business strategy. This is shocking, explains Evans, because it goes against the two long-standing theories in strategy. Evans, a senior partner at a leading consulting firm, is also the author of Blown to Bits, about how the information economy is bringing the trade-off between “richness and reach” to the forefront of business.
19. The Hidden Force in Global Economics: Sending Money Home — Dilip Ratha
As economist Dilip Ratha explains in his TED talk, “The Hidden Force in Global Economics: Sending Money Home,” international migrants sent $413 billion home to families and friends in 2013. That’s three times more than the total of global foreign aid! Known as remittances, this money makes a positive and dramatic difference for individuals and foreign economies alike. Ratha’s thought-provoking talk explains how much of these remittances are used, and analyzes how they are often stifled by regulatory obstacles.
20. Beware, Fellow Plutocrats, the Pitchforks Are Coming — Nick Hanauer
As the co-founder of aQuantive (which he sold to Microsoft for $6.4 billion) and the first non-family investor in Amazon, Nick Hanauer is a wealthy, “proud and unapologetic” capitalist. But in this fascinating TED talk, Hanauer describes the current state of the country’s growing inequality gap as resembling that of pre-revolutionary France. To prevent such terrible consequences, Hanauer argues that a dramatic increase in minimum wage could grow the middle class, deliver economic prosperity, and literally prevent a revolution.
21. Creative Problem Solving in the Face of Extreme Limits — Navi Radjou
In “Creative Problem Solving in the Face of Extreme Limits,” Navi Radjou discusses the idea of “jugaad,” a Hindi-inspired concept known also as frugal innovation. Radjou discusses the way entrepreneurs in emerging markets pioneered “jugaad” as a way to get the most value out of limited resources, and how their practices caught on globally. Radjou, a bestselling author and fellow at Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge, supports his ideas with myriad examples of human ingenuity, plus three principles anyone can use to succeed more with less.
22. A Bold New Way to Fund Drug Research — Roger Stein
Roger Stein is a financial management expert who works to bring financial engineering to the world of drug funding. In his TED talk, “A Bold New Way to Fund Drug Research,” Stein proclaims that nearly twenty years worth of potentially life-saving drugs are sitting, untested, in labs — simply because the financial risks for testing them are considered too high. From the perspective of finance, Stein describes the unique and promising new financial model that could move hundreds of these drugs into the testing pipeline.
23. The Investment Logic for Sustainability — Chris McKnett
As the head of State Street Global Advisors’ Environmental, Social and Governance Investing (ESG), Chris McKnett is a sustainable investment champion who has helped countless institutional investors put money toward sustainable and socially-forward assets. McKnett begins his TED talk by asking what companies can actually do to make environmental progress. He then explains how large institutional investors who look at a company’s environmental, social, and governance structures are putting their money in the right places to create better businesses and a better world.
24. Government Surveillance – This is Just the Beginning — Christopher Soghoian
Christopher Soghoian is a privacy expert and activist who researches hacking technology and government surveillance. In fact, Soghoian has written extensively on the idea that government surveillance has become its own industry — an idea he further illustrates in his TED talk. Through private companies, he says, governments are buying technology with the capacity to break into computers, monitor activity, and steal documents without ever being detected. Though unnerving, this fascinating TED talk offers a necessary glimpse into a future where privacy simply doesn’t exist.
25. My Wish: To Launch a New Era of Openness in Business — Charmian Gooch
Charmian Gooch was the 2014 TED Prize winner, an honor she received for her work as co-founder of the NGO Global Witness. In this brave and eye-opening TED talk, Gooch explains how anonymous companies protect corrupt individuals like arms dealers and drug cartel leaders in such a way that they are impossible to be found and held responsible. Gooch describes how she is working to change the laws, and launch a new era of openness in business so all can know who owns and controls companies.