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Visioneering: How to Answer the Challenges Just at the Edge of Human Grasp

October 19, 2012, 12:00 AM

What's the Big Idea?

You can put the smartest people in the world in the same room together and get a terrible result. That was the lesson, after all, of David Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book that detailed the monumental failure of JFK's "whiz kids" whose ideas about what to do in Vietnam were so brilliant that they "defied common sense." 

Jack Hidary, who has been one of the leaders in making electronic vehicles available to the general public, has a different idea of collective intelligence, which he refers to as "visioneering." Hidary has been heavily involved with the X Prize Foundation, an organization that designs competitions to answer challenges that Hidary says are "just at the edge of human grasp." Hidary is the co-founder of the $10 million Auto X Prize

In order to design an effective X Prize, Hidary says you not only need the smartest people in the room but also "those who are the most open and most eager for innovation and breakthroughs." To that end, the X Prize convenes two-day meetings twice a year that are comprised of experts like Hidary and Elon Musk, James Cameron, the heads of Google and many other innovators who tend to be self-made entrepreneurs. 

According to Hidary, these types of gatherings are designed to "increase the serendipity quotient of all the people in the room."

Watch the video here:

What's the Significance?

By following a rigorous framework for problem-solving, the X Prize Foundation has been able to frame questions around grand challenges, and design competitions to solve problems that are "just at the edge of human grasp," and yet achievable. In the case of the Auto X Prize, the goal was to create a 100 mpg car that could be brought to market.

Here are other examples of the way issues have been framed, which came out of the foundation's visioneering sessions:

  • How can we diagnose tuberculosis in three hours in remote areas?
  • How can we diagnose cancer early?
  • How can we map the ocean floor?
  • How do we deal with an island of plastic in the ocean? 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @Daniel Honan


Visioneering: How to Answer...

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