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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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Today's Big Idea: Design Thinking

The Big Idea for Wednesday, June 27, 2012

There are a lot of aspects of so-called 'design thinking' that Jonah Lehrer would never embrace. Brainstorming, for one thing, is shunned by Lehrer in his book, Imagine: How Creativity Works

And yet, there are some important aspects of design thinking at work in the latest video lesson Lehrer has taped with Big Think. Design thinking, in the sense that we wish to employ it here, is the mental process of literally thinking like a designer to solve a problem.

The specific problem we are looking at today is growth. What can companies learn from the way that cities grow? At first glance that question might seem utterly counter-intuitive, as we tend to think of cities in the chaotic context of rapid urbanization. And yet, as Lehrer points out, the design ethos of the city is human-centered. The interactions that happen in cities tend to be very productive, whereas growing companies can experience fatal stagnation as they come to rely on old ideas. 

Lehrer's key insight in this lesson is that we ought to design communities and organizations with the same ethos, that is one that encourages interaction, and therefore maximizes productivity.  


  1. 1 Jonah Lehrer: Cities Are the Knowledge Engines of the 21st Century
    Daniel Honan Think Tank
  2. 2 The Rise of the Megacity
    An Phung Think Tank
  3. 3 Faster, More Urban, More Diverse
    Richard Florida
  4. 4 The Automation of Rio: Smart City or Digital Tyranny?
    Daniel Honan Humanizing Technology

Today's Big Idea: Design Th...

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