What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

Ben Franklin's Guide to Innovation

October 17, 2013, 12:00 AM
Ben_franklin_kite

Imagine Ben Franklin, fat and self-satisfied. 

That image his hard to conjure because Franklin, one of America's great innovators, was physically fit up until his seventies, and he was never satisfied.

"He became a printer and then he became an entrepreneur and then he created a library and then he created a university," recounts innovation expert Jeff DeGraff. "Then he created the original self-help group.  Then he became a diplomat.  Before he was a diplomat he became a great scientist and invented everything from the Franklin stove to the lightening rod to bifocals, which he didn’t patent because he thought everybody should be able to use them," DeGraff says.

So what if, in his path from inventor to diplomat, to great American patriot, DeGraff asks us to consider, Franklin thought he had finally found himself? "He would have never become that amazing polymath, that Renaissance person that we all want to be," DeGraff says. "So I think it’s an absolute gift that we never really get there because that’s what pulls us forward."

The essential lesson here, is that when it comes to innovation, it’s never fully realized. This lesson is derived from DeGraff's Masterclass on Big Think Edge, the only forum on YouTube designed to help you get the skills you need to be successful in a rapidly changing world.  

Let's say you developed a miracle drug. There’s always another miracle drug.  Let's say you developed a great restaurant, there’s always a second restaurant.  Let's say you developed a software solution to keep everybody safe. There’s always another software solution because there’s always someone else pushing back with an alternative so that you have to keep going. "So we never really fully arrive," DeGraff says. "But isn’t that the best thing in life?"

To put it another way, DeGraff has us conjure the image of climbing a mountain. You’re going in a circle up this mountain.  That’s how innovation really works.  In fact, one of the classic mistakes people make, DeGraff says, is that "they think they know everything at the beginning. You don’t know anything at the beginning."

That is why, as you circle the mountain, you build a version 1.0, then 2.0.  You build the thick and thin versions of products - the simpler one and then the more complicated one later. You do this because you know you’re going to learn some things along the way.  "So in innovation, DeGraff says, "there’s a lot of twisting, there’s a lot of turning, there’s a lot of doubling back, there’s a lot of paying attention to what we know now.  What did we learn from our experiences and our experiments?"

And that is why DeGraff's hero is Benjamin Franklin, "the penniless runaway, the diplomat, politician, patriot, on and on it goes."

For expert video content to inspire, engage and motivate your employees, visit Big Think Edge

Watch the video below and sign up for your free trial to Big Think Edge today. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

More from the Big Idea for Thursday, October 17 2013

Scalable Learning

The scalable efficiency mindset will only take you so far in the context of today's unstable, rapidly evolving digital infrastructure. To succeed today, you need to figure out how to move effor... Read More…

 

Ben Franklin's Guide to Inn...

Newsletter: Share: