January 7

Inventing the Future

Monday’s Big Idea

Negative Capability

Remaining content with half-knowledge, or negative capability, is a literary concept that may be applied to innovation in general. In a famous letter to his brothers, the English poet John Keats defined negative capability as such: "when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason." 

This zen-like state of permanent beta makes many people uncomfortable today. In a rapidly changing world, we seek comfort in certainty. And yet, certainty cannot always be found, nor should it even be regarded as desirable. Innovation, after all, is a destructive act. We often have to unlearn what we know and disrupt our own thinking in order to create better outcomes. 

To the extent that we can make this process joyful, creative and ultimately productive will determine how good we are at embracing negative capability. And it is in this spirit that Big Think embarks on our next journey, on the occasion of our fifth anniversary. 

Read Big Think President and co-founder Peter Hopkins's letter to our audience which details the launch of two new platforms, Edge and Mentor. 


  1. 1 Big Think's Guide to Thinking and...
  2. 2 Why Small Moves, Smartly Made, Ca...
  3. 3 Visioneering: How to Answer the C...
  4. 4 Four Steps to Harvest Winning Ideas
   
  1. Big Think's Guide to Thinking and Doing Bigger in 2013

    Big Think's Guide to Thinking and Doing Bigger in 2013

    We are taking Big Think as you know it today and opening our doors to go deeper and wider. We will continue to focus on big ideas, and then, help you put the ideas into practice.

    Read More…
  2. Why Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Change the World

    Why Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Change the World

    From an evolutionary standpoint, which traits are most adaptive to a historical moment in which old certainties have vanished and anything is possible? According to Seely Brown, they include bravery, creativity, and a sense of play.

    Read More…
  3. Visioneering: How to Answer the Challenges Just at the Edge of Human Grasp

    Visioneering: How to Answer the Challenges Just at the Edge of Human Grasp

    You can put the smartest people in the world in the same room together and get a terrible result. Jack Hidary has a different idea of collective intelligence, which is derived from his work with the X Prize Foundation. 

    Read More…
  4. Four Steps to Harvest Winning Ideas

    Four Steps to Harvest Winning Ideas

    Channeling innovation and propelling yourself onto the path to success is easier said than done. So how do you create an environment that’s ripe for innovation?

    Read More…