Entrepreneurial creativity can’t thrive in a vacuum. It needs data and knowledge, and constant exposure to new ideas and perspectives. If you spend 100% of your time focusing only on your narrow niche, you’re likely to miss opportunities that are hiding in plain sight.
I find that podcasts are a great way to expand my mind, especially while engaging in otherwise idle activities: driving, hiking, running, or working out on the elliptical, for example.
I’ve discovered some favorites over the years. They’re all available for free via iTunes. If you’re not an Apple product user, most of these podcasts have their own websites where you can listen online or download in MP3 format (but iTunes is far more convenient because you can easily sync content and keep track of which episodes you’ve already listened to).
Here are my picks for the Top Ten Podcasts for Entrepreneurs:
- Stanford eCorner’s Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders: This is a weekly, hour-long deep-dive into entrepreneurial topics in the form of interviews with insightful business leaders. Highlights include Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn on “Live Life in Permanent Beta,” Guy Kawasaki on “Creating Enchantment,” Steve Jurvetson of Draper Fisher Jurvetson on “Innovation in a Disruptive Environment,” and Eric Ries on “Evangelizing for the Lean Startup.”
- HBR IdeaCast: The Harvard Business Review’s IdeaCast consists of weekly interviews, mostly under 15 minutes, with leading executives and researchers covering all aspects of business and management.
- NPR’s Planet Money: This twice-weekly podcast covers an amazing array of micro- and macro-economic issues, both domestic and international, in ways accessible to all listeners. Each episode begins with a brief “economic indicator” – a number currently making headlines, with a description of its relevance. It then takes a deep-dive into the day’s topic. Some episodes, such as those dealing with the toxic debt securities at the heart of the financial crisis, form a story line that spans many months. Others examine the economics of various industries, explore policy issues that may seal the fate of the European debt crisis, or explain the historical origins of the practice of tipping service providers from an economic perspective. Most episodes are about 20 minutes in length.
- Freakonomics Radio: Economists Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner explore “the hidden side of everything.” For example, do more expensive wines actually taste better, or does price influence perception? And would adding a lottery feature to savings accounts increase savings rates?
- Seth Godin’s Startup School: This recording of Seth Godin leading a series of startup workshops is required listening for all entrepreneurs.
- Arming the Donkeys: Dan Ariely, professor of behavioral economics at Duke University, has informal chats with researchers on everything from the perils of procrastination to why bonuses backfire. Most episodes are under 10 minutes.
- NPR’s Science Friday: Host Ira Flatow covers the latest news in science, technology, health, and the environment, with interviews of scientists, authors, and policymakers. Most 50-minute episode cover 3-4 topics each. Older episodes and related materials are available on the Science Friday website.
- Wall Street Journal on Small Business: Brief weekly summaries of business news relevant to small businesses, including some high-level tips. The coverage is often superficial, but sound bites can sometimes be a good catalyst to take your thinking in new directions.
- The Public Speaker’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Improving Your Communication Skills: Practical tips for improving all aspects of your communication, from casual speech, to public addresses, to email, to marketing copy. These are critical skills for success in any area of business, and these podcasts are a great investment of your time. If you like this one, you’ll also like Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing – another essential for people who communicate for a living.
- TED Radio Hour: Host Alison Stewart interviews TED speakers covering new inventions, fresh approaches to old problems, and new ways to think and create. This series launched in April 2012, and is likely to become one of my favorites.
- BONUS: From Scratch: This radio program features in-depth interviews with entrepreneurs spanning all types of ventures, from restaurants to social media. You’ll get some great insights into how these founders overcame various challenges as they built their businesses.
So step away from your computer for a while, plug in your earbuds, and go get some fresh air while you fill your mind with some new knowledge. I guarantee these podcasts will make you a better entrepreneur.
If you have some favorite podcasts that I might have missed, please share them in the Comments section below. Happy listening!