by Juliet Barbara
Think of all the moments in the day when your mind is idle: when you’re getting dressed, commuting, cooking dinner, cleaning, going for a run. Podcasts are a great way to fill those pockets of time while still doing the task at hand. If you’re not familiar, podcasts are basically audio (or, increasingly, video) lectures, interviews or discussions that you subscribe to and download to a computer or mobile device.
The trick is choosing the right podcasts. Here’s my list of the most thought-provoking ones that will change the way you think.
1. The Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Series
Pretend you’re back in college…but you actually went to Stanford and a bunch of big-shot entrepreneurs want to tell you about innovation, leadership and starting companies. That’s kind of what the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Series is like. If you only try one, check out Bill Gross’ “A Devotion to New Ideas” or John Seely Brown’s “Collaborative Innovation and a Pull Economy.”
2. Intelligence Squared
The Intelligence Squared Oxford style debates don’t just cover two competing sides of issues like education, the war on terror and religion. They’ll also train you in high-level debate. Highlights from last season include “Are Men Finished?” and “Would the World Be Better Off Without Religion?” Audio podcasts are downloadable through iTunes.
Bonus: if you’re a New Yorker, you can check out a Spring 2012 debate live. And if you really love Oxford style debates, try the Economist’s debates.
3. HBR Idea Cast
These interviews with Harvard Business Review authors are a short and sweet way to absorb the publication’s key findings on leadership and success. I especially enjoyed Know Your Power Persona with Maggie Craddock and Productivity Secrets from a Very Busy Man with Bob Pozen. These podcasts are also downloadable through iTunes.
4. New Yorker Out Loud
Don’t have time to read the whole New Yorker? The New Yorker Out Loud program will give you the “need to know” information from some of the best New Yorker articles. And just like with the magazine, you’ll glean some excellent “cocktail party” talking points. Don’t miss Jonah Lehrer’s interview on how to stimulate group creativity. If you like Jonah, check out his blog that aggregates his articles on topics like moments of insight and the future of the brain.
5. TED Talks
This one almost needs no introduction. If you’re passionate about a topic, chances are there’s a TED Talk that will change the way you think about it. This nonprofit is dedicated to “Ideas Worth Spreading.” It started in 1984 to bring together people in Technology, Entertainment and Design, but has since expanded to pretty much any topic you can imagine. The talks are best viewed as video, but also makes great audio podcasts, downloadable here.
Podcasts don’t just give you new information. Using the shorter bursts of time that podcasts can fill lets you keep your mind engaged throughout your the day. What are your favorite podcasts that have inspired you or changed the way you think?