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


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

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


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

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


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

Are you on the "buy" side or "sell" side of innovation?

December 15, 2008, 6:11 PM

Boiler Room movie The recent economic turmoil has started me thinking about being on the "buy" side and the "sell" side of innovation. Almost any industry has a "buy" side and a "sell" side -- but the term is really a staple of the financial services industry. Get two investment professionals into a room, and they'll inevitably start discussing whether they're on the "buy" side or the "sell" side.

For anyone who has never been in a banker hangout in a town like New York, the terms may be a bit inscrutable. Doesn't everybody in the financial markets, to a certain extent, "buy" and "sell"? Well, not exactly. Mention "buy" side and "sell" side, and two very distinct images come up. The "buy" side wears conservative clothing and boring ties, takes fewer risks, and clocks out by 6 pm. The "sell" side wears flashy Euro-cut suits and $150 ties from Hermes, thrives on risk, and clocks out at midnight. (If the distinction is still not clear, check out this career survival guide from TheVault.com that discusses the "buy" side and "sell" side.)

The "buy" side includes asset managers and mutual fund managers and portfolio managers -- people who literally "buy" investments for their clientele. These people are typically not all that flashy and their pay is typically a function of two variables -- the size of assets under management and the performance of those assets. They have incentives to grow their assets under management, and the easiest way they can do that is by putting together a great track record. Once investors see that the "buy" side manager has put together a great history of returns, the money starts flowing in. The only problem is that, as the asset base gets too big, it becomes harder and harder to know where to put your money (i.e. investing $100 is a lot easier than investing $100 million)

On the other hand, the "sell" side includes investment bankers -- people who create, package up and then "sell" products to the "buy" side. Investment bankers might take a company public, and then "sell" shares in that IPO to a retail investor base. Or they might "sell" a bond offering to a group of institutional investors. The important distinction is that these bankers make money by constantly pitching companies and investment products to the "buy" side. They make money on commissions and spreads -- so they have an incentive to keep the wheels of capitalism greased by constantly coming up with new ideas and concepts. They have to be proactive, constantly looking for cool new ideas. Interested in investing in Russia? Heh, heh, have we got the instrument for you! Looking for a little exposure to the clean energy sector? Wait just a second and we'll come up with something for you! Looking to juice your investment returns? Take a look at our new exotic mortgage derivatives -- we promise they won't blow up after 18 months!

So... are you on the "buy" side or "sell" side of innovation? Are you the manager looking for some creative ideas to boost your business? Or are you the innovation consultant looking to sell-in your ideas to top managment?

During boom times, there's no place better to be than the "sell" side. During an economic downturn, however, the "buy" side gains the advantage. That's when they get the privilege of canceling meetings, ignoring phone calls, and haggling over prices. Why? Because they can. For people on the "sell" side of innovation, though, that's an opportunity. Only the best, most creative folks continue to make money.

[image: The Boiler Room]


Are you on the "buy" side o...

Newsletter: Share: