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Updated 06 Dec 2020

3 TED Talks that could inspire unique ways to grow businesses

As a company CEO, MD or founder, strengthening your business’ capabilities in an increasingly competitive business world is a key part of your role.

15 May 2018  Share  0 comments  Print

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All the answers to your unique business lifestage questions

What has your business’ response to economic uncertainty, exchange rate fluctuation and overregulation been? South African businesses are reacting by delaying business decisions, suspending company expansion and deferring offshore investment.

But, you don’t have to follow suit.

While the current climate may be challenging for growth – causing businesses across South Africa to tread cautiously – business leaders can’t let themselves become uninspired or demotivated by prevailing circumstances or sentiment.

Amidst political and economic turbulence, it’s advisable to elevate your mindset to find creative ways to grow and succeed. These three must-watch TED Talks by some of the world’s leading minds in leadership, psychology and law, can help you develop a different mindset for doing business:

1. The happy secret to better work by Shawn Achor

Shawn -Achor -ted -talk

Who is Shawn Achor?

Shawn Achor is the CEO of Good Think Inc., where he researches and teaches about positive psychology. He is also the author ofThe Happiness Advantage.

Why almost 18 million people have watched him already

Achor’s spent 12 years doing research at Harvard University. This led him to discover how businesses can increase their employees’ happiness, consequently raising success rates and companies’ profits. He is a firm believer that positive changes subsequently ripple into more successful company cultures. 

Related: Executive Director Hasnayn Ebrahim's 5 rules for strategic growth in your business

A key takeaway from his TED

Positive psychology involves understanding the science of happiness. Firstly, he notes, our external world is not predictive of our happiness levels. 

“90% of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world,” he says. “We’re finding it’s not necessarily the reality that shapes us, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. If we can change the lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.” 

How to apply a lesson from this TED Talk

Find a way of becoming positive in the present. Your brain will be able to work harder, faster and more intelligently. Achor suggests meditation, as it allows your brain to get over the ‘cultural ADHD’ that we’ve been creating by trying to do multiple tasks at once. “Meditation allows our brains to focus on the task at hand,” he says.

2. The puzzle of motivation by Dan Pink

The -puzzle -of -motivation -by -Dan -Pink

Who is Dan Pink?

Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don't: Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think. 

Hear what Al Gore’s former speechwriter has to say

Pink’s trio of influential bestsellers have changed the way companies view the modern workplace. The former lawyer identifies a sea change in the global workforce: The shift from an information-based corporate culture to a conceptual base, where creativity and big-picture thinking dominates the landscape. 

A key takeaway from his TED

Contingent motivators – where employees are told ‘if you do this, then you get that’ – work in some circumstances, but for a lot of tasks, they either don't work or, do harm.

“Think about your own work. Do the problems that you face, have a clear set of rules and a single solution? No. The rules are mystifying. The solution, if it exists at all, is surprising and not obvious,” he says. 

How to apply a lesson from this TED Talk

Traditional notions of management are great if you want compliance, but if you want engagement, Pink says self-direction works better. “You need to pay people adequately and fairly, and then give them autonomy. High performance doesn’t stem from rewards and punishment, but that unseen intrinsic drive, where employees have the drive to do things for their own sake and because they matter,” he notes.

3. How great leaders inspire action by Simon Sinek

How -great -leaders -inspire -action -by -Simon -Sinek

Who is Simon Sinek?

British-American motivational speaker and marketing consultant Simon Sinek, has authored four books, including Start With Why – a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership, where he starts with a ‘circle’ and the question ‘Why?’

Always remember your ‘why’

Sinek has discovered significant patterns in the way leaders who’ve made an impact in the world, companies and politicians think. “I try to find, celebrate and teach leaders how to build platforms that will inspire others.”

Related: Business models that could help companies grow

A key takeaway from his TED

“As it turns out, all the great inspiring leaders and organisations in the world, whether it’s Apple or Martin Luther King or the Wright brothers, all think, act and communicate the exact same way. And it’s the complete opposite to everyone else. All I did was codify it, and it’s probably the world's simplest idea,” says Sinek. 

“I call it the golden circle. Why? How? What? This little idea explains why some organisations and some leaders are able to inspire where others aren't.” 

How to apply a lesson from this TED Talk

Aim to hire people who believe what you believe, and not just because they are looking for a job. “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money, but if they believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears,” says Sinek. 


The challenges of business growth require you to think differently as a company leader. In the face of a generally pessimistic outlook for the nation’s economy, conceptual methods of motivation and using your company’s ‘why?’ might help you grow when others cannot.  

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