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6 TED Talks for MBA Students

With the growing complexity of the business world, today’s leaders face different challenges than those of the past, ranging from increasingly convoluted marketplaces and supply chains to jarring social and economic issues that directly impact global stability. Companies who seek to be successful and thrive in this business climate need leaders who are committed to flexibility and finding innovative solutions to these complex challenges. In the following TED Talks, six leaders reveal their valuable insights on developing leadership qualities, strategies for productivity, and methods for cultivating innovation and engagement in the workplace.

Carol Dweck - The Power of Believing that You Can Improve


Author and professor of psychology, Carol Dweck, is a leader in the field of motivational studies. In this talk, she discusses some of the secrets to intellectual growth and achievement that she discovered through research and practical applications. Her discussion centers on improving traditional approaches to learning, which tend to focus on immediate results. Dweck calls this the “now” mindset, where learners are presented with a problem under the premise that they are being judged on their ability to correctly solve it. As her research indicates, this approach often leads the mind to shut down when confronted with difficult challenges.

An alternative approach, which Dweck calls the “growth mindset,” focuses on rewarding the strategic process involved in problem-solving rather than simply arriving at correct answers. Rewarding the process, rather than the result, highlights the critical thinking that must occur to arrive at the solution and the importance of recognizing the effort involved in the process of delivering those results. Research revealed that the growth mindset approach resulted in greater problem-solving efforts, higher levels of brain activity, and ultimately, greater levels of learning and performance. MBA students aspiring to manage competitive organizations will be faced with complex logistical and administrative challenges. By adopting a process-oriented approach, professionals can help themselves and their employees perform better when confronted with complex problems.

David Marquet – How Great Leaders Serve Others

David Marquet is a retired U.S. submarine commander and founder of the leadership group, “Turn the Ship Around.” In this talk, Marquet offers valuable guidance and insight on being a successful and effective leader. His talk hinges on the idea of being a strong delegator and distributing control. In this view, leadership is largely a matter of developing other leaders, which is critical for today’s companies in order to develop a competitive edge and ensure success.

The lessons Marquet shares in this TED Talk from his days as a submarine commander highlight the importance of empowering and encouraging subordinates to become critical thinkers and giving them autonomous control over decision-making. For MBA students looking to enhance their capabilities as a leader, developing an understanding of this autonomous approach can be highly valuable as it has helped Google and other top companies promote innovation. Further, utilizing this approach can help business leaders differentiate their organizations.

Mike Brady and Dion Drew – Hiring the Unemployable

Mike Brady is the President and CEO of Greyson Bakery in Yonkers, New York, an organization dedicated to social responsibility and sustainability efforts. In his portion of the talk, Brady discusses connecting business goals with the objectives of social justice and addressing poverty in communities. Greyson Bakery is the first to officially register as a “benefit corporation,” which is an organization that is responsible for reporting on the environmental impacts of its business operations and how it is addressing social responsibility.

The highlight of this talk is the idea of open hiring – allowing every individual the opportunity for employment, regardless of their background. Brady notes that this practice has resulted in individuals putting millions of dollars back into their communities. Following Brady’s talk, Dion Drew, an employee who obtained employment through this open hiring policy, shares the story of his troubled past and how the opportunity to work at Greyson Bakery changed his life. Both Brady and Drew emphasize the urgent need for more companies to consider open hiring policies and engaging in socially responsible action. Doing so not only helps improve the economy of the surrounding communities but also benefits the company’s success.

Dan Pink – Hackers: The Puzzle of Motivation

Dan Pink is a career analyst and author of three New York Times best-selling books on social motivation and business success. In this talk, Pink discusses the limits of “functional fixedness.” This type of cognitive process centers exclusively on traditional function—in other words, only using an object or a tool as it was originally intended and not pursuing any alternative uses or strategies. In a business world dependent upon creativity, innovation, and the power of intrinsic incentives (e.g. internal rewards, like personal motivation), functional fixedness can be quite limiting.

In this TED Talk, Pink highlights research that reveals how traditional extrinsic financial incentives— such as annual bonuses or raises—can have a positive or negative impact on performance, depending on the complexity of the task. For instance, extrinsic rewards are found to improve the performance of simpler tasks but hinder the performance of more complex tasks. Conversely, in multiple cases, intrinsic motivators—working with employees to set personal goals, for example—prove to be far more effective for improving the performance of more complicated tasks. For today’s business leaders, understanding intrinsic motivators can be powerful tools for sparking engagement and innovation and helping to build better companies with more highly motivated, creative problem solvers.

Shawn Achor – The Happy Secret to Better Work

Award-winning Harvard psychology instructor and best-selling author, Shawn Achor, is widely recognized for his studies in positive psychology and the benefits of positive thinking. In his talk, Achor points out that traditional, statistical approaches to measuring performance based on averages are counterproductive. As students in MBA programs learn, today’s businesses must find ways to differentiate from the competition. Achor highlights that one way business leaders can achieve a competitive advantage is through constant performance management, such as managers and business owners consistently working to refine their top performers’ skills and strategies. This allows companies to develop tactics that can help boost productivity and efficiency, which connect to the valuable concept of positive thinking. Habitual positive thinking raises the brain’s productivity levels and increases an individual’s ability to master new techniques quickly and effectively. For business leaders, one of the secrets to a more motivated and creative workforce is to find ways to help individuals think more positively, such as focusing on the strengths of performance.

Jason Fried – Why Work Doesn't Happen at Work

Co-founder and President of 37-Signals, a company that develops web-based productivity tools, Jason Fried, shares some valuable insight on maximizing productivity in the workplace. Through his talk, he challenges leaders and managers to consider their own organizations and how their work environments might be counterproductive for employee output due to distractions. According to Fried, developing policies and strategies that can help employees focus on work tasks, such as allowing employees to work outside of the office and scheduling meetings in ways that don’t interrupt peak productivity times, can be valuable and increase productivity. MBA professionals in top management roles can find great benefit in adopting the approaches that Fried highlights within the video.

With societal and technological advancements, many companies around the world have departed from traditional management strategies of the past. MBA students looking to remain competitive in this new business landscape need to thrive on finding innovative solutions that can move organizations forward. By embracing these innovation challenges and aiming to become more creative, tomorrow’s business managers can become the kinds of leaders that end up revolutionizing the business world.

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As the nation’s oldest private military college, Norwich University has been a leader in innovative education since 1819. Through its online programs, Norwich delivers relevant and applicable curricula that allow its students to make a positive impact on their places of work and their communities.

Norwich University’s online Master of Business Administration (MBA) program helps create strong leaders well-versed in business management practices. Students can customize their MBA by choosing a concentration in construction management, finance, organizational leadership, project management, supply chain management & logistics, or energy management.

Recommended Readings
8 Must-Read Books for MBA Students


Carol Dweck, TEDxNorrkoping

David Marquet, TEDxScottAFB

Mike Brady and Dion Drew, TED@Unilever

Dan Pink, TEDGlobal 2009

Shawn Achor, TEDxBloomington

Jason Fried, TEDxMidwest

May 2017


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