Exceptional Business Podcasts for MBAs in 2020

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For MBA students, podcasts are an efficient way to get educated and stay aware of the types of conversations going on in the world of business. But not all business podcasts are created equal.

Some podcasts brand themselves as essential listening for entrepreneurs, but their content is nothing more than saccharine self-help cliches. Even worse, a few highly listened-to podcasts are just fronts for coaching courses and get-rich-quick schemes. Perhaps there’s a marketing lesson to be learned here about the monetary value of exposure, but it’s not worth your time.

The top business podcasts are more professional. They include discussions of emerging issues pulled from the desks of C-suite executives and the offices of B-school faculty. These podcasts are free, available anywhere, and in many cases, an effective supplement to one’s MBA journey. Below, you will find the personal insights of startup unicorns, industry heavyweights, and premier researchers.

Check out our list of the top business podcasts for 2020 and start listening in on the conversation, so you can start adding to it.

HBR IdeaCast

IdeaCast, a weekly podcast from Harvard Business Review, has been around since 2006. Hosted by two senior editors for HBR, Alison Beard and Curt Nickisch, IdeaCast features actionable insights from the leading thinkers in business and management. Previous guests have included Oprah Winfrey and Google’s Eric Schmidt, along with several other luminaries.

IdeaCast gives you access to many of the insights of HBR, without the subscription and mountain of text, and given the podcast’s long tenure, you’ll be hard-pressed to run out of episodes.

Knowledge@Wharton

The podcast from Knowledge@Wharton, the business school’s business analysis journal, gives listeners free access to Ivy League insights. Faculty members and prominent business figures weigh in on business analysis topics that range from entrepreneurship in a pandemic, to stress-tests for banks, to the ‘Roth-ification’ of 401Ks.

This is topical content with expert commentary, including interviews, case studies, and research from one of the top-ranked business schools in the world.

The McKinsey Podcast

For several aspiring business school students, the final stage of their MBA dream is a job offer from a high-powered consulting firm like McKinsey. While the McKinsey podcast doesn’t dive deeply into the internal process of everyday life as a consultant, it does teach you about the range of topics today’s global consultant is thinking about: everything from scaling AI and the future of Asia, to structured problem solving and renewable energy.

Episodes are released on an irregular schedule— it’s been a slow spring, in particular—but the back catalog is rich, and even the Crown Prince of Saudia Arabia is listening.

Planet Money

Launched during the financial crisis of 2008, NPR’s Planet Money describes itself thusly: “Imagine you could call up a friend, and say meet me at the bar and tell me what’s going on with the economy. Now imagine that’s actually a fun evening. That’s what we’re going for at Planet Money.”

Twelve years later, the show is still delivering on that premise, with over 1,000 episodes logged—each of which is a strong introductory point to a particular aspect of the economy. How does the Federal Reserve work? What impact do unions have on the economy? Planet Money has the answers in an engaging, barroom story-telling style.

HBS Cold Call

Harvard Business School’s Cold Call podcast takes you inside one of the best business schools in the world, and sits you down for an expert one-on-one lesson. Every episode features HBS faculty members discussing a business case they’ve written, and the learnings which can be drawn from it.

Whether you’re aspiring to join an MBA program or have already completed one, Cold Call keeps you up to date on the business conversations that are happening at the highest level. The podcast is hosted by Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge platform, which has been bringing cutting-edge business research to the mainstream since 1999.

TED Talks Business

The TED Talks Business podcast puts the most business-relevant TED Talks into easily digestible podcast form. The topics covered include how to design gender bias out of your workplace; how humans and AI can work together to build better businesses; and what coronavirus means for the global economy.

Most episodes are under 15 minutes long, but some stretch to nearly an hour. No need to fall in love with a host’s voice or style, either, as each episode brings in a different expert, so you can cherry-pick the topics (and hosts) which call out most to you.

How I Built This

NPR’s How I Built This focuses on innovators, idealists, and entrepreneurs, sharing the stories behind the movements they’ve built. Hosted by Guy Raz, who the New York Times has called one of the most popular podcasters in history, each episode explores the creation story of something large, disruptive, and recognizable.

Part narrative journey and part business strategy, previous subjects have included Instagram, Lyft, AOL, Whole Foods, and Yelp. As a weekly podcast running since 2016, there are over 200 episodes to choose from.

Masters of Scale

Masters of Scale is a business and finance podcast hosted by Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn. Each episode tackles the problem of scale: how a business grows from serving a handful of customers to several million, or billion. Different theories of scale are proposed, debated, and measured against the experiences of successful founders.

Guests of the biweekly show have included Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Starbucks’ Howard Schultz, Airbnb’s Brian Chesky, and Netflix’s Reed Hastings. Notably, Masters of Scale was one of the first American media programs to commit to a true gender balance for its guests.

The Tim Ferriss Show

Tim Ferriss first gained popularity for his best-selling book, The Four Hour Workweek, back in 2007. With The Tim Ferriss Show, he’s become a vocal representative for a sizable slice of the Millennial hustler demographic. Ferriss has garnered criticism for his shameless sense of self-promotion—he’ll remind you, many (many) times, of how highly ranked his podcast is—but his ability to parse someone’s individual success for widely applicable learning moments is what’s kept him in the conversation. Guests on the podcast are a diverse spectrum of celebrities: everyone from Secretary Madeleine Albright, to Lebron James, to Peter Thiel.

The $100 MBA

The $100 MBA is a lean, mean, podcasting machine. Hosted by Omar Zenhom, it does away with the self-congratulating, self-promoting trend on many business podcasts and focuses instead on lessons that listeners can immediately apply to their own entrepreneurial lives.

Each episode averages over 100,000 listeners, and contains what Zenhom calls no fluff. If you’re overwhelmed by the podcast’s 1,500+ episodes and don’t know where to begin, you can search for specific topics on the podcast’s website and jump in exactly where you’re most interested. It’s not a replacement for an MBA, but it’s an excellent supplement.

Matt Zbrog
Matt Zbrog
Writer

Matt Zbrog is a writer and freelancer who has been living abroad since 2016. His nonfiction has been published by Euromaidan Press, Cirrus Gallery, and Our Thursday. Both his writing and his experience abroad are shaped by seeking out alternative lifestyles and counterculture movements, especially in developing nations. You can follow his travels through Eastern Europe and Central Asia on Instagram at @weirdviewmirror. He’s recently finished his second novel, and is in no hurry to publish it.

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