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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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Question: What's your legacy?

Tom Stewart: I hope … and I … and I don’t mean this lightly, but I hope that when I think about my contribution and legacy, that the first thing is that my kids will say, “You know, dad was a pretty good guy,” and will quote me, you know, in … as in … in … . “Dad always used to say … or, “I remember sometime when dad said ….”  That would be one piece.

I remember going to Rome the first time and making the point of seeing Keats’ grave … and me being at Keats’ grave and weeping at Keats’ grave.  And … “there it is!”  And he … I mean he craved immortality.  And on his tombstone is written, “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.”  And you never know whether Keats was, you know, actually thought that, or whether he was doing that figuring that if by doing that, it was sort of like taking an umbrella so that it wouldn’t rain.  Whether that was a protection or whether … whether it was just false modesty.  But …  But I’d like to think that, in some of the work that I’ve done – both in my own writing and as the editor of HBR – that there will be a few things that have changed some organizations for the better.  When … when I was at Fortune before coming to HBR, I wrote two books about intellectual capita about the value of knowledge, and about the importance of thinking of knowledge in organizations, and . . . and developing knowledge assets, and developing … and tapping into people’s brains and creativity or …  And those have had an influence, I think, along with a lot of other things that have contributed to that; but I also … I hope that in that work, and in the work that I’ve done at HBR, there will be some people who will say, “That article …” or “That idea, that … that changed things.  That … that gave people some stuff that made some lives better.”  Or … or even ideally, some organizations changed the practice of management in some permanent ways that we’ve stopped screwing things up quite as often as we do.

Recorded on: 6/22/07


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