- There’s a wide variety of business podcasts out there, making it hard to figure out which ones are worth a listen.
- Business Insider asked professors, successful MBA grads, CEOs, and other thought leaders what their favorite podcasts are, and compiled a list of 24 picks.
- From hard-hitting interviews to thought experiments, here’s what top leaders are listening to regularly.
- Click here for more BI Prime stories.
While many people have opinions about the best business podcasts to listen to, Business Insider searched far and wide to assemble a group of select industry thought leaders — CEOs, business school professors, authors, notable career experts, exceptionally successful MBA grads, and other movers and shakers — to chime in with their favorites.
These individuals argue that these 24 podcast picks are almost as instructive as getting an MBA degree. So if you’re looking for a quick and free education that doesn’t require going back to school for two full years, you’ll want to add these to your playlist.
1. HBR IdeaCast by Harvard Business Review
Thibaud Clément is the CEO and cofounder of Loomly, a brand success platform with more than 130,000 users that raised a seed round of more than $3 million and experienced around 600% revenue growth in 2018.
Clément, who has an MBA from the University of Ottawa, stated that as the CEO of a fast-growing startup, he finds HBR IdeaCast to be “a reliable business resource that comes with the quality stamp of [HBR], meaning high editorial standards, sharp guests, and a well-rounded show.”
He said that the popular podcast helps him reflect on different aspects of his role, with “practical insights and advice” that he can actually leverage on the job.
“In one episode, you learn about how to better manage personal challenges such as how to thrive as a working parent or how to be less distracted at work,” explained Clément. “In another episode, you may be provided with insights on how to grow as a professional, like how to find and keep your company’s soul or what great coaching looks like. Yet in another episode, you will be led to think about the societal impact of business on society and vice versa, including what dematerialization impacts the economy or how African-Americans [advance] at work.”
He added that he frequently finds himself recommending it to other professionals. “[T]here is always — at least — one of their 700+ episodes that comes to mind when discussing a specific topic,” Clément said. “You simply cannot go wrong with this podcast.”
Clément said that this podcast is “one of the best podcasts for all things digital,” noting that it’s “particularly helpful to understand how digital media and marketing are evolving today — and what this means for the business world tomorrow.”
The eMarketer podcast also offers flexible options to tune in: “[T]he show is available in a daily format (offering deep dives on specific topics) or in a weekly roundup (gathering key industry insights), so that you can easily fit it in your agenda,” said Clément.
Lauren Miller, leadership coach for MBA students at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business and adjunct faculty at the Integrated Innovation Institute, stated that workplace-oriented podcast options “tend to be overwhelmingly saturated in technology and entrepreneurship topics, and are often based on either pop trends or very specific research in management science.”
But she identified Safe For Work as one of the few podcasts that she “listen[s] to, scribble[s] notes about, and re-listen[s] to whenever [she] feel[s] a little unfocused.”
“Liz Dolan, former CMO at Nike, leads this podcast about real-life workplace issues such as navigating networking events for introverts, resume solutions for gaps in employment, how to create better work meetings, and bouncing back from a work failure,” Miller explained. “[It’s] very conversational in nature and an easy listen. They take a cheeky approach and aren’t afraid to ‘call a spade a spade’ when it comes to workplace frustrations.”
She added that since the Safe For Work podcasts are about 20 to 25 minutes in length, they’re “perfect for a morning commute.”
“Dave Stachowiak is a master at interviewing business leaders and getting to their kernels of truth,” said Miller. She said that episodes such as “The Way to Get Alignment With Your Boss,” “Performance Measurement That Gets Results,” and “How to Make Your Work More Visible” are some of her favorites.
Miller advised that since these interview-style podcasts “are richer and a bit denser,” you should make sure you carve a good block of “focus time” — 30 to 40 minutes — to tune in to them.
“Srini Rao [founder of Unmistakable Creative] has raw, intense, and personal conversations with business and creative leaders in a wide variety of positions and industries,” said Miller. “The focus of this podcast is looking within to push ourselves to achieve more meaningful success.”
Miller points to “How to Go From Idea to Done,” “Why a Tolerance for Discomfort Is Essential to Peak Performance,” and “The Psychology of Visionaries” as favorite episodes.
Jan-Christopher Nugent, CEO and cofounder of ecommerce solution provider Branded Online, which offers ecommerce solutions that have helped companies achieve 100% growth, said that “[p]odcasts are a great way to get a wealth of content in an easy to consume format. And the willingness of people who are the top of their game to give a roadmap as to how they got there, truly can’t be found anywhere else.”
For Nugent, “a podcast has to be not only insightful but also entertaining.”
In describing why The Tim Ferris Show fits this bill, Nugent said that “sometimes the best new idea comes from someone outside of your field. [Ferris’] guests include CEOs, athletes, and entertainers, and [he] not only gives business acumens but also daily routines, books, and other habits that contributed to their success.”
Nugent also gave a plug for Perpetual Traffic as another podcast that he listens to regularly.
“The hosts are enthusiastic, and I can compare what they are seeing in the broader marketplace … against what my company’s clients are experiencing to create actionable tactics,” he said.
Debika Sihi, associate professor of economics and business at Southwestern University, recommends this podcast by NPR “to almost everyone pursuing a degree in business or just interested in business.”
“This phenomenal podcast navigates the journeys of different entrepreneurs that have built some of the world’s most well-known brands or innovations,” she said. “This podcast is wonderful because rather than focus only on the outcomes or drivers of a successful venture, it focuses on the entire process, including how individuals learn from early challenges.”
She added that as you listen to different episodes, “common themes” emerge about ideation and product or service development. “These themes offer cautionary lessons listeners can consider, or at least be aware of, in their own business careers,” said Sihi.
Sarah Welch — the chief marketing officer at CarGurus, an automotive research and shopping website that, based on monthly unique visitors, has become the largest online automotive marketplace in the US in just over a decade — seconded Sihi’s recommendation of How I Built This for its “[a]mazing entrepreneurial journeys with incredible lessons learned that could be applied to any business.”
Welch — who earned an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business in 2002 — caveated that while NPR’s Hidden Brain is not technically a business podcast, it’s highly relevant to business as host Shankar Vedantam “uses science and storytelling to reveal fascinating and unconscious patterns that drive human behavior.”
She added that as a marketer and a leader she finds “a lot of the insights highly relevant in thinking about how to effectively influence people, as well as how to control for unconscious biases of [her] own that might lead to sub-optional decisions.”
10. upside by upside
This podcast is dedicated to highlighting interesting startups outside of Silicon Valley, and one of Welch’s top recommendations.
“As a leader of several Boston-based companies that people always assumed must have been Bay Area (TripAdvisor, CarGurus), this one really speaks to me,” explained Welch.
In this TED original podcast, organizational psychologist Adam Grant “explore[s] the science of making work not suck,” according to the podcast’s website. Grant is a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and author of many bestselling business books including “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” and “Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success.”
Adam Medros is the president and COO of online learning platform edX, which was founded by Harvard and MIT and, according to the company’s website, is home to more than 23 million learners. Medros, who earned his MBA from Harvard Business School, explained that WorkLife is on his “always listen list” because it always makes him think about organizational challenges and opportunities from a different perspective. WorkLife was among Apple Podcasts’ most downloaded new shows of 2018, and spent two weeks in the number-one spot on the entire podcast chart.
12. Exponent by Ben Thompson and James Allwortha
Exponent is about tech and society. The podcast offers “tech strategy that goes with Ben’s awesome [blog] Stratechery,” explained Medros.
13. Build by Maggie Crowley
Build’s host Maggie Crowley is a former Olympian turned Harvard MBA student turned director of product management.
“[Crowley] at Drift is doing a great job talking about product management and building great products,” said Medros of this podcast.
Jarie Bolander is the founder and COO of healthcare systems company Lab Sensor Solutions, Inc., which has been part of two accelerator 500 startups and has raised $1.1 million to date.
Bolander, who has an MBA from the University of Phoenix, describes The Knowledge Project, hosted by Shane Parrish, as “a masters class in mental models and optimum performance.”
The podcast has had more than 10 million downloads and features interviews with a wide range of business thought leaders, from Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman to Stanford University’s Greg Walton. “The topics are wide ranging and foster the most important thing missing from MBA school — internal mindset,” said Bolander.
15. My First Million by The Hustle and Shaan Puri
Bolander also likes My First Million, which he explained as “[i]nsightful interviews with founders who went from zero to hero, or rather $0 to $1 million,” noting that the conversations presented by The Hustle and Shaan Puri are “engaging and personal with a lot of nuggets of wisdom.”
16. Trill MBA Show by Felicia Ann Rose Enuha
Marin Heiskell, a manager at Deloitte Consulting and industry leader in Deloitte’s Diversity and Inclusion Practice, as well as a 2010 graduate of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, recommends Trill MBA Show as the “top podcast for MBAs — especially MBAs of color.”
Hosted by Felicia Ann Rose Enuha, who has an MBA from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business (and dubs herself “The Trillest MBA You Will Ever Know” on the podcast’s website), The Trill MBA Show “is one of the realest career advice podcasts out there, as it provides candid advice and experiences for MBAs on preparing to succeed in corporate America,” according to Heiskell.
“Felicia has guests from various industries share their lessons learned — including lessons from failed attempts at following the cookie-cutter advice given in business school or in business books like ‘find a sponsor!,’ ‘gain an advocate!,’ and ‘lean in!’,” she said.
She added that what makes this podcast “real” is that it offers a “safe space to talk about what advice has worked and what hasn’t — and why.”
“It is clear that Felicia’s goal is to create Trill MBA graduates: educated people of color equipped with advice from those who look like them who didn’t get it right all the time,” shared Heiskell.
Todd Markson, the chief strategy officer at education and technology company Cengage — the largest US-based provider of teaching and learning materials for higher education — graduated from the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business in 2004 and worked as a principal at Boston Consulting Group and a partner at Wolverine Ventures before joining Cengage.
“One of the key components to being a master of business is to always challenge yourself to explore and embrace new ideas,” said Markson. “This is what I love about the TED Podcasts. You are constantly exposed to some of the world’s greatest thinkers — coming from every industry, on every topic.”
He added that it “challenges you to question what you know, and think about things in a new way. I’ve found this to be more important than any lesson learned in a classroom, is to listen and learn from others. You’d be surprised what you can apply to your life and business.”
“Freakonomics is a great listen for any individual in business or with strategy ambitions,” said Markson. “It’s a good reminder of the wild and often unthinkable connections there can be between seemingly unrelated things. It challenges our conventions on a wide span of topics, and does so in a fun, compelling, and impactful way.”
He added that it’s forced him to “push to always explore things beyond face value and look for new ways to approach things and new ways to solve old problems.”
William Taylor is a career development manager at MintResume, which offers resume templates and other career resources for job search candidates and employers.
With over 12 years of experience in career advising, coaching, and recruitment, Taylor “strongly recommend[s]” The Touch MBA Admissions Podcast.
“[F]ormer MBA admissions director Darren Joe gives MBA applicants the inside scoop on how to craft a successful application for top-ranked schools,” said Taylor. “He interviews admissions directors and students from around the world who offer their opinions and advice on how to get accepted to programs like Wharton, MIT Sloan, INSEAD, London Business School, and more.”
20. Cold Call by Harvard Business School
Pratibha Vuppuluri is the chief blogger at She Started It!, an online resource guide for working moms, and has more than a decade of experience in the financial services industry — including as a consultant at UBS and an assistant vice president at Deutsche Bank. She was also part of a team selected to represent Columbia University in the Global Social Venture Competition from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business — before she launched her own venture.
Cold Call, Vuppuluri said, “gives you a taste of what it’s like to study at Harvard’s legendary MBA program. In every episode, a [HBS] faculty member discusses a case study that they’ve written and taught. They also provide insights into the program.”
When Lauren Beitelspacher — the division co-chair and associate professor of marketing at Babson College — teaches graduate classes, in addition to using How I Built This to help students “realize that the founders can’t do it alone and have to surround themselves with trusted people who have complementary skill sets,” she also likes to use NPR’s Planet Money.
“Planet Money is great because it gives relevant examples of economic concepts,” explained Beitelspacher. “My favorite episode is ‘The Starbury.’ In this episode, Stephon Marbury tries to create a shoe to compete with the Air Jordan on affordability, and it just couldn’t sell in the United States. This creates great conversations around marketing, branding, and distribution.”
22. Reply All by Gimlet Media
Beitelspacher less frequently also recommends Reply All to students.
“It focuses on how the Internet has changed the way we communicate and shop,” said Beitelspacher. “It’s fascinating for discussions around go-to-market strategies and word of mouth.”
Roland Polzin is the chief marketing officer at Wing, a startup launched in 2016 that offers a 24/7 mobile virtual assistant app powered by a hybrid of human and artificial intelligence.
In addition to his C-level position, Polzin is also in his last year at the full-time MBA program at UC Irvine Paul Merage School of Business, specializing in business strategy. “Although there is no perfect substitute for the overall MBA experience, I listen to Masters in Business,” said Polzin. “It’s an excellent addition to MBA classwork and gives me insights to many topics from different angles. They present current and highly relevant information to me as an entrepreneur and allow me to expand on my personal experience beyond my immediate network and environment.”
Matt Erickson is the marketing director at National Positions, a Los Angeles-based digital marketing agency that has served thousands of clients across multiple industries, media channels, and target markets.
Erickson, who has an MBA from California State University at Sacramento, said the #AskGaryVee Show is a favorite of his.
“Gary is one of the few who is not afraid to speak his truth, break down problems to the core, and go beyond the spreadsheets.”
Erickson also appreciates that the podcast helps listeners gain a “deep-seated sense of thinking on your feet and about practical solutions to business problems.”
“Most of Gary’s content includes discussions with other business entrepreneurs — the information being offered is much more real-time than what you get from most textbooks,” Erickson concluded.