Podcast Wizard

August 02, 2017

People who know me well know that I am bit of a podcast junkie.

The amount of time I spend listening to podcasts is a bit embarrassing. My ability to keep up with them has gotten to be such a challenge that I’ve learned to listen to them at high speed to maximize the time I have to take them in. Getting through all my podcasts gives me the same feeling of accomplishment as getting my inbox cleared. 

I might have a problem. 

I can take some solace, however, in knowing that I am not alone in this podcast addiction. The proliferation of podcasts is astounding. iTunes alone claims to have more than 250,000 unique podcasts and one billion subscriptions.

In a time where I feel like I have increasingly less time to actually read information, podcasts have been a welcome savior in helping me keep up with current events, learn new things, and take in just-plain-cool stories. I’m always amazed by the topics (like one podcast dedicated to every episode of The West Wing, a show that went off the air in 2006!) and I’ve been especially excited to find great podcasts on topics related to work projects (especially in the healthcare space) that have helped me “get smart” on a topic faster.

I’m always happy to share my favorite podcasts and am so thankful when I get a recommendation for a podcast that becomes a favorite. Here are a few “greatest hits” I recommend. Consider it my special “mixtape” gift to you:

Let’s start with some fun ones. Have a road trip coming up? Need to put together some IKEA furniture? These podcasts are entertaining and totally binge-worthy: 

  • S-Town. A murder, a clock maker, tattoos. True story and worth all the hype.
  • Serial. I recommend Season 1 about the death of a teenage girl and her boyfriend who claims he’s innocent of her murder. This got me through a long trip to Japan (and didn’t help the jetlag at all).
  • My Dad Wrote a Porno. Warning – definitely NSFW and some will take offense to the content. But it is hilarious… and based on a true story (sort of). I started listening to this while wrapping Christmas gifts last year and laughed so hard I couldn’t cut a straight line in the wrapping paper.
iTunes alone claims to have more than 250,000 unique podcasts and one billion subscriptions.

If you are curious about people and why we act the way they do, these are for you. Understanding people is part of my job and these have been great complements to project work:

  • Hidden Brain. One of my favorites – it’s a solid mix of sociology, science and great storytelling. Some recent favorites: “Could You Kill a Robot?” and “Who We are at 2 A.M.”
  • Freakonomics Radio. A spin-off podcast from the book, this podcast says they explore “the hidden side of everything” and they do. This podcast includes some really great stories about behavioral economics, politics and so much more. I can’t recommend just one or two episodes – they are all so good.
  • Note to Self. This podcast takes a critical (and very accessible) look at technology and its role in our lives. Sociologists 100 years from now will probably reference this podcast to understand the current conversation. Check out “Meet the Humans Who Protect Your Eyes” and “AI Learns from Us. So it Learns Bias.”

If you want to be inspired by or learn more about technology, innovation, design and designers:

  • The Design of Business | The Business of Design. This podcast features a different guest from the design industry every episode. Guests share great stories about struggles and successes.
  • Inside Intercom Podcast. I discovered this one while going down a rabbit hole on a blog posting once. While it’s the blog of a commercial software company, the guests on the show are often design or tech leaders sharing their career journeys. Even when the guests are not big names, the lessons and stories shared about managing change, people, and processes have always been relevant.
  • Stanford Innovation Lab with Tina Seelig. This is a newer one for me, and has had some great, practical discussions around best practices and tools to facilitate better brainstorming.

A few others I must recommend – good ones to squeeze in while on the daily commute or while making dinner. A good mix of entertainment, learning, and human interest:

  • This American Life. A classic. This show started my podcast addiction. I was so happy when I learned that I didn’t have to feel bad about missing the radio broadcast of this amazing show and could listen to it whenever I wanted. All are worth a listen, especially the ones with David Sedaris.
  • Up First. A great way to get NPR’s morning headlines in 10 minutes or less. If you have more time, most of the major networks have podcast versions of their nightly broadcasts (and minus the commercials they are only about 20 minutes long).
  • Marketplace. Yes, it’s the daily business show on NPR, but don’t let that deter you. Marketplace has a great mix of economics, current events, and human-interest stories described in ways that anyone can understand.
  • On Being with Krista Tippett. These are deep conversations about humanity, politics, religion and much more and can inspire heavy personal reflection.

Putting together this list and choosing podcasts wasn’t easy – I felt like I was slighting all the other great ones I subscribe to. If you have a favorite please let me know – I’m always looking for another great podcast.