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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.

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Before Replying: How Understanding Context Can Help You Problem Solve

July 15, 2014, 3:45 PM

What's the Latest?

Our obsession with instant communication threatens to exclude the context in which our business and personal problems inescapably exist. And the imperative to express yourself and always be "getting your ideas out there" often glosses over the essential concerns that belong to the other person. Singular goals like increasing your online audience or to fundraise, fundraise, fundraise cannot be the measured success to which they aspire; they do not measure or seek to understand the complex conditions which preceded the present moment. Entrepreneur Joel Gascoigne recommends several tools to help you discover context before replying. 

What's the Big Idea?

Context is often the key to solving problems, whether they are business related or interpersonal. Here are some tips:

1. Give your undivided attention. Turn your phone over, sit on the edge of your seat, and lean forward into the conversation. It's a slog at first, but you'll start to train your listening muscle.

2. Realize you don't need to respond. Rather than being prepared to save the conversation from a moment of silence, taking a moment to contemplate an idea just shared is a sign of respect.

3. Ask thoughtful questions. Stating your opinion is fine but what good is it unless takes the context of the conversation into account? By asking questions you can guide the conversation rather than control it.

4. Be prepared to follow the conversation wherever it leads you. Once you've experienced the thrill of uncharted territory, you'll never go back to repeating your canned opinions again.

Read more at Fast Company

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