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


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

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


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

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


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

Innovate, Or Get Out of the Way!

September 16, 2011, 12:00 AM

What's the Big Idea?

In the preface to his play, The Doctor's Dilemma, George Bernard Shaw made the famous observation that all professions "are conspiracies against the laity." In short, they shield their own shortcomings from the public out of self-interest.

Indeed, the protection of professional interests can be traced to pre-industrial times, when the earliest guilds began to exert tight control over the secrets of their respective crafts. Master craftsmen, the professional heirs to the "experts" of today, formed these associations for the purpose of mutual protection, not innovation.

Indeed today, when an industry gets too comfortable, it becomes anti-innovation. "I define an expert as someone who can tell you exactly how something can’t be done," says Peter Diamandis, who has done perhaps more than any other man to disrupt the space industry, a feat he accomplished by designing the Ansari X Prize for the first successful private manned spaceflight, which was won by SpaceShipOne in 2004.

For Diamandis, disrupting an entire industry was not just a matter of coming up with a brilliant idea. He had to test the idea--the design for his competition--against the feedback from experts in the field. As Diamandis tells Big Think, it was really a matter of asking the right questions of the right people.

Watch the video here:

What's the Significance?

Instead of relying on the traditional aerospace players like Boeing, Lockheed and NASA ("the dinosaurs," as he likes to say), Peter Diamandis turned to another group of experts ("the fury mammals," as he likes to say) to help shape the Ansari X Prize competition. And ultimately it was groups of small teams, not corporations and governments, that prevailed in the "big boy business" of building private spacecraft.

The other key to solving a market failure, according to Diamandis, is to ask these key questions:

  1. What's the root cause of a market failure?
  2. Why does that market failure exist? 
  3. Why doesn’t the goal you want to achieve in the world exist right now?
  4. What’s keeping it from happening?

In the case of private space flight, Diamandis realized that capital wasn’t flowing into the market because "no one believed private space flight was really possible" and regulations didn’t allow for it.


Innovate, Or Get Out of the...

Newsletter: Share: