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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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Where Do Breakthroughs Come From?

May 28, 2013, 11:25 AM

Ultimately, a breakthrough comes from non-traditional areas.  And you need to be open to looking for breakthroughs from non-traditional players.  So with the Ansari X Prize, we didn’t have the Boeings and the Lockheeds and Northrops playing.  We had these 26 different teams from very wide different areas.  

And so, Burt Rutan, a great innovator backed by Paul Allen, ended up using very non-traditional approaches in building Spaceship I.  He used tire rubber and laughing gas as the fuel.  And he used composite materials and used something called a feathered device to stabilize himself coming in.  And if you had been a traditional investor, you probably would have never backed those kinds of approaches.  

But by putting up a prize, we enabled all kinds of non-traditional approaches to be tried and ultimately to drive breakthroughs.  So, the lesson is, if you’re looking for a safe approach, you’re going to be dedicating yourself to an incremental approach.  If you’re looking for breakthroughs, you need to be willing to take huge risks and to back non-traditional approaches.  

So in this world today.  If you’re dedicated to thinking big, you’re dedicated to taking risks, measured risks, and be clear about where your goal is, knowing how you measure it when you get there.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock. 


Where Do Breakthroughs Come...

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