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Lessons in business … from prison

Jeff Smith, a former American State Senator, was sent to prison but was very surprised by the business thinking of the prisoners he met.

Open Jeff Smith’s 5-minute TED talk in another window and use these notes to help you focus on business English. TED talks are great for English learners because you can use the Transcript to help you and you can click on the Transcript to start the video at that point. The numbers show the position in the Transcript.


Inmate = prisoner

Fellow inmate = I am a prisoner and this person is also a prisoner


Business instincts

Instinct = a natural way of thinking

Jargon = special language

Promotional incentives

An incentive encourages someone to do something.

A promotional incentive might be a discount (eg 25% reduction).

Or a promotional incentive might be extra for free (eg ‘buy one get one free’)

New product launch = to introduce a new product to a market

Focus group

Before introducing a product to a market, a company can test the product with a small group of people who will give their opinions.

To focus-group = to test a new product or service with a focus group

Territorial expansion

There are various methods of market expansion (increasing your market).

It is possible to expand your market but stay in the same location. For example, a company could expand its range of products in order to sell more.

Territorial expansion is selling to customers in a different location (e.g. a different country).

Territorial (adjective). Territory (noun).

Why not book a private lesson and learn more business English about market expansion?


To mark up (verb)

This is an aspect of pricing.

When I mark a product up I increase the price by a certain amount in addition to the cost price.

Mark-up (noun)


To hustle (verb, informal, American English) = to sell (usually illegal or immoral)

A hustle (noun).

Jeff Smith explains the meaning of ‘risk-reward tradeoff’. Can you find his answer?


Ingenuity (noun)

Ingenious (adjective) = clever and original


enterprise = another word for business


entrepreneurial (adjective)

entrepreneur (noun) = a person who starts a business

Which of these words are most useful to you in your own workplace? Let me know by adding a comment.

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