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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.

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Democratized Innovation

January 3, 2011, 12:00 AM

We are about to enter a new age of elegant solutions driven through democratized innovation. In the coming years, we’ll see a convergence of new platforms for posing grand challenges and new tools to allow anyone to address these challenges.

During the Renaissance, as society became less hierarchical and more interconnected, novel ideas and innovations flourished. Similarly today, where advances in information and communications technologies have led to ever-increasing human and digital interactions, the tools that enable innovation have never before been more accessible to organizations and individuals, regardless of their physical location on the planet. As a result, technology and innovation have been accelerating at an ever-faster clip.

These tools don’t end with the internet, either. New micro-financing mechanisms like TechStars and super angels enable companies to start up and iterate at ever increasing speeds. Very low cost prototyping tools like 3-D printers and CNC milling machines, “fab labs” and public access workshops like TechShop, and flexible global supply chains mean new products can make it from idea to manufacturing within days. Today, almost anyone with a great idea, no matter where they live, can have the means necessary to build and deliver the next generation of products and services.

But the real breakthrough happens when these individual innovators have an opportunity to collide with each other and, in more productive ways, address bigger challenges. We have already seen the beginnings of a renaissance in big problem solving.  Incentive prizes like those from the X PRIZE Foundation, and strategic directives like the National Academies Grand Challenges for Engineering and the Millennium Goals announced by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will focus and drive our most creative minds from any discipline to use new tools to find solutions to the biggest challenges facing our planet.

This is why the University of Southern California just launched our Diploma in Innovation for PhD students: to enable the students are the absolute cutting edge of their fields—from digital arts to physics, materials science to architecture—to augment their role in the innovation ecosystem and learn how they can collaborate and make maximum impact with their ideas.

Our challenge in 2011, and where I see incredible opportunity on the horizon, will be how we choose to define the big questions of our time and engage the largest number of participants to create a viable path towards tangible and long lasting solutions.

Krisztina "Z" Holly, Vice Provost for Innovation at the University of Southern California and Executive Director of the USC Stevens Institute for Innovation.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Chuck "Caveman" Coker.


Democratized Innovation

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