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
With rendition switcher


Dan Ariely:  In the last Ig Nobel Award, which is one of my favorite awards of the year, there was an Italian paper that got the award, and they got it for theshowing that it’s better to promote people randomly than promote people according to their skill.  Now why is this the case? The Peter Principle is that people get promoted in their job until their level of incompetence.  Right?  You get promoted and promoted and promoted until you don’t perform that well.  So it means that if you follow this process, everybody will get to the level of incompetence, but if you promote people randomly, you might not get to this Peter Principle.  

One of the problems with promotions is that we promote people based on outcomes, not about the quality of their decisions.  So imagine if you were in charge with some news or some seafood restaurant and you decide to open a new restaurant in the gulf a week before BP decided to spill lots of oil intothe gulf.  Would you get promoted after that?  Now, if you just thought about the outcome, the outcome was devastating to the company.  You just opened your restaurant, you spent a lot of money, all the seafood supply is dissolved and there’s no more tourists.  So from the outcome perspective, it’s awful, from a decision perspective, you might have been the most careful, wonderful employee.  You must have checked all of the details and the tourist movement and this might have been the best decision possible.  

Now, if we have a tendency to reward outcomes rather than decisions, we’re not necessarily going to promote the right people.  Because what we want is people who have good skills in making decision, not people who are lucky.  Unless you believe in luck or you believe in people kind of have shoe horns and stuff like that and it helps them in the future.  But if you promoted or you didn’t promote somebody who made a really right decision, took all the information into account and then something terrible happened, there’s a good chance this person will continue to make right thoughtful, deliberate decision.  Whereas, if you took somebody who just, you know, waved their finger around and use their intuition and did some decisions that happened to be right, all of a sudden you are promoting somebody who might not be that good for the job.  

Now this is tough. Right?  Because outcomes are easily measurable and effort and thoughtfulness and quality of the decision is not as easily measurable.  But I think to promote the right people; we really have to shift away from promoting outcomes to promoting actual decision quality and investment in thedecision.  

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd


Promoted to the Level of In...

Newsletter: Share: