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The 10 Best Podcasts For Innovators of 2021

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As innovators, we’re always on the hunt to learn and unlearn. Podcasts are a powerful way to learn, unlearn, and find new inspiration all in your fingertip. They can be an empowering vehicle of knowledge that take us outside our comfort zones by challenging common perceptions on everything from science to literature. And whether you’ve been a long time podcast fan or entering this space for the first time, there is always something for everyone.

Ever since we started our podcasts Dear Workplace and Curious Monica, my appreciation and respect for podcasts have deepened. I’ve been a long time fan of NPR and New York Times but I had no idea how much work and care goes behind the scenes. Now that I get to see how much work goes for each show we do at InnovatorsBox, I’m amazed. If it takes more than 30 hours across eight different team members to create one 20 min episode, how much effort and time are all the podcast creators putting in to produce their content? A lot for sure!

As of April 2021, Podcast Insights recorded that over 2,000,000 shows and over 48 million podcast episodes are out there. While that’s an immense amount of content readily available for fans to enjoy, it is also a result of a lot of work that creators have invested to produce. No wonder I’m seeing more jobs related to podcast producing and hosting than ever before. Have you tried googling it? As of today, about 50+ jobs show up just near Washington, D.C. That’s a huge jump from just a few years ago when folks were still familiarizing themselves with the concept of podcasting. But the timing for podcast development is ripe.

The pandemic has led us to being more appreciative of the audio-based content as we become increasingly tired of screen time. And with a lot of big names jumping into the wagon, like the recent Apple subscription launchFacebook’s podcast service startKajabi’s podcast service launch, and Spotify’s continued investment in podcast development, I envision there will be even more development.

So, if you are looking to find what shows to check out and explore what is out there, this is the time to do so. And I’d like to start by recommending these 10 shows I recommend all innovators to tune into. Ranked in no particular order. Here we go!

1. Planet Money by NPR

It’s mix of storytelling, economy, and humor – which is the perfect way to indulge learning new insights, keeping up with trends and be reminded of how connected this society is. From learning about how Black Wall Street was developed and destroyed 100 years ago to learning how women’s labor movement 9 To 5 made a movie to speak about the struggles women have in the workplace, every episode both delights and inspires you of where we are and where we hope to see improvement in this society.

2. Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

Whether you’re a Brené Brown fan or new to her name, this is a good place to pulse check our emotional intelligence and feelings about being a leader. Brené’s research in vulnerability, shame and guilt has paved ways in how we think about emotions in the workplace. And this show ingeniously brings out insights around these topics relatively in more real time through her podcast interviews with other experts to help us reflect and rethink various workplace leadership challenges. You’ll walk away with not only new insights but also a warm smile to know that you are not alone with the questions you raise at work.

3. Dear Workplace by InnovatorsBox

Yes, we are adding our show because we know this will help you reimagine how you thrive at work. From studying various workplace trends such as how leaders are made to being more comfortable embracing authenticity – even when engaging online – are questions innovators ask all the time but don’t always have the safe room to reflect. In each episode, we speak with a few innovators to share their insights and perspectives on different topics that will delight you, challenge you, and encourage you in how you reimagine how you thrive at work.

4. Foundering by Bloomberg

I’m a fan of storytelling and I absolutely loved how this show has captured the story of how TikTok and WeWork evolved. Unlike reading an article online where you hear just one side of the story and highlights, listening to the six-part series is like walking into an audio documentary. I get to hear all different perspectives. They do a wonderful job adding a cliffhanger at the end of the episode. It makes you want to pause and take a step back to digest how what we hear versus what happens behind the scenes and beyond the public reports can be vastly different. Having had learned so much about the companies it has covered, I now already look forward to seeing what other stories are in store for us. 

5. How I Built This with Guy Raz by NPR

Whether you are an entrepreneur or intrapreneur, this is one show you’ll walk away being more energized after you listen. Yes, all those mega companies that we know today have had quite humble beginnings. Guy Raz is an excellent host who grills the guests with deeper questions to pull out the layers to really share how challenging building a business is and why it’s so important to understand the many different nuances. Before I started InnovatorsBox, I used to listen to an episode each day to be inspired but also to keep things in perspective that starting a business is a marathon. I promise you, you’ll appreciate the real talk that Guy Raz gives you here.

6. Radiolab by WNYC Studios

This show has so much richness, but I particularly fell in love with their recent series on The Vanishing of Harry Pace, a five-part series of Harry Pace who was being forgotten despite all the milestones led by him in America. The storytelling, the sound effects, the depth of the interview, and authentic scripting made me hooked, and it also made me crave more about the topics they were covering. This show has made me want to try out documentary series for our future shows too after realizing how much I enjoyed their ‘series’ approach.

7. The Daily by New York Times

Everyday, there is something new to learn here. And while some are one-off episodes and others are series, I love how they do the in-depth narration and storytelling, they end up making you feel like you are there with them uncovering these secrets and new way of thinking. From economy to society, their episodes always put you into perspective about how connected this complex world is when we study with more curiosity.

8. Curious Monica by InnovatorsBox

Ever felt like why does my friend have a cooler job? Well, this is the show you can uncover more of what that job is really like. Not only that, but also learn more about how they built their career and fell in love with what they do. I speak with friends from HR to entertainment to learn more about how they built their expertise and how what they do is changing as our society shifts in multitudes of ways. Plus, you’ll also get to learn about all sorts of different jobs! For instance, here is how a few my friends at entertainment space shared what their journey is like.

9. Startup School by Seth Godin

I found this show to be very eye-opening when I first learned of it as I was dreaming of entrepreneurship in 2015. The raw conversations Seth Godin had in a classroom with his students talking about what it’s like to build a business makes you feel like you are in the classroom with them. It also made me appreciate long-term and strategic thinking more. A lot of the concept he brought up here were new to me at the time, but it did help me challenge myself how to reframe what I think is possible or not, because when you are an entrepreneur or if you’re leading innovation, you must always account for risk and long-term ROI instead of immediate return.

10. Hidden Brain by Shankar Vedantam

This show, formerly hosted at NPR, has now gone independent! I feel that some of the aspects used to be better before, but the thoughtfulness that Shankar brings into his research in each episode and introduces psychology, storytelling, and problem solving in the show is really inspiring and creative. I encourage you to check out some of the shows back in 2019 and 2020. Just looking at the episode titles, it’s hard not to get curious!

Bonus: Notable Shows

OK, I want to share a few more bonus shows because there are so many great shows to check out and as innovators, it’s important we continue to expand our learning and content consumption. If we only spend time together with who we are familiar with, how can we be introduced to any novelty? These are some other shows I also like to tune into.

Just putting together this list got me energized already and I hope it does for you too. While the podcast trends and listeners will continue to change, what is powerful about this medium is that you can engage in the way you’d like without having set aside any dedicated time to consume content. While you’re driving, exercising, or even doing laundry, you could listen, daydream and reflect.

The opportunity to learn and unlearn is always there. I hope this list inspires you to be more curious about the world around you. I sure will be looking forward to checking out some other shows now that I spent some time reflecting on some of my favorites!

What are other shows that you’d add? Let me know on Twitter @monicahkang. Enjoy the shows!

About the Author

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang, Founder, and CEO of InnovatorsBox® and Author of Rethink Creativity is transforming today’s workforce through the power of creativity. She helps companies rethink culture, leadership, and team development by making creativity practical and relatable regardless of industry or job title. She has worked with clients worldwide including Fortune 500 companies, higher education, government, and nonprofits. Monica’s work has been recognized by The White House, Ashoka Changemakers, National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Prior to InnovatorsBox®, Monica was a nuclear nonproliferation policy expert. She holds an M.A. from SAIS Johns Hopkins University in Strategic Studies and International Economics and a B.A. from Boston University.

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