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

1

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

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

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

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

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
Close

How Your Social Network Shapes Your Decisions (And Your Friends' Decisions)

August 23, 2012, 12:00 AM
Friends%20girls

What's the Big Idea?

Love your best friend? Good. Chances are you’re unconsciously emulating her. As humans, we all engage in mimicry, says Harvard physician and sociologist Nicholas Christakis, and we usually copy the people to whom we are most connected.  

Watch the interview:

This adaptive tic is especially noticeable when it comes to the use and reuse of verbal expressions. The urge to pepper our conversation with phrases we hear uttered by close friends and colleagues can be irresistible. No matter how annoying, pretentious, and useless you find business jargon, for instance, the day may very well come when you want to "take everything to the next level" and habitually refer to easy fixes as "low hanging fruit." (Where did "no worries" come from? It worries me a lot.) 

In one recent study, psychologists showed subjects silent videos of speakers reading a list of words then asked them to repeat the words they saw on screen. Without being instructed to, subjects pronounced the words in the same accent as the person on the video. The researchers attribute this impulse to the brain's innate tendency to empathize and affiliate. 

But we pick up more than just speech patterns from our interactions. "You come to copy [those in your network] along a whole variety of traits," says Christakis. At work, these include things like energy level, cooperation, productivity, and even health-related traits such as whether or not you smoke. According to Christakis -- who, with his team at Harvard, has mapped and studied workplace networks -- once we appreciate how intricately and deeply people are connected to each other, we can use that understanding as a tool to call forth better behavior. 

What's the Significance?

"The usual way of understanding workplace organization is the classic org chart where you have boxes and names and it's like a tree," he says. In fact, the real structure of an organization looks more like a tangle of Christmas tree lights than a set of hierarchical branches, with every bulb a person and the wire, the ties that have formed between them. In order to be effective, health interventions must be set-up accordingly. 

Christakis suggests identifying the most influential people in the network, and targeting education and outreach towards those specific people: "We know that when groups of people, particularly people who know each other and are interconnected collaboratively, engage in something such as a health improvement behavior that they're more likely to sustain it and more likely to respond positively."

 

 

How Your Social Network Sha...

Newsletter: Share: