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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 does a Director of Insights do?

Steve Rubel: So, my job as Director of Insights is to ensure to be insightful.  It’s to really study first and foremost technology, understand kind of where the technology trends are going and begin to directionally make sense of that. 

Second, is to think about how consumers are going to interact with technology and finally is to think about how this is all going to impact our clients in a year, 3 years, 5 years time. 

And then what I do after that is basically I’ve kind of, you know, studied trends which I do through a number of different ways.  I process all that and I serve as an adviser to first our teams, second to some of our key clients as kind of a consultant on digital trends and then finally I have a big external role like this interview for example that helps me build the Edelman Digital brand around the world.

Question: How do you follow technology trends?

Steve Rubel: First of all, I know I’m going to be wrong a lot, I mean, and I think I allow myself to be wrong and so but first thing I do is I’m a tremendous avid reader. I mean I read huge amounts of information on this topic.  I subscribe to thousands of blogs. I read Twitter streams. I read research reports. I read books. I’m constantly reading on the subject.

Second thing I do is I talk to our clients which are some of the biggest marketers in the world, to kind of understand what their pain points are and what they’re thinking and what they’re feeling and what they worry about and then, and then beyond that I just talk to a lot of folks. I go to conferences. I go out and meet with technology vendors and through all that, I’m able to process where things are going.

Question: What trend are you currently following?

Steve Rubel: One of the more pivotal trends I’m watching I think is what we call the media reforestation which is, you know, which is I think Big Think is definitely part of and I say that in a good way. 

The whole notion that, you know, media over the last 5-6 years has been completely democratized as you are, as your studio here and your crew is proving and with that I think that finally that coupled with the recession and a number of other trends is beginning to erode, you know, big media companies and a big part of that is the transition from atoms to bits. So, I think that all media is going to be digital or in digital format or tangible forms of media will either be in decline or gone I think in five years and that includes everything from books to DVDs to newspapers. I mean they will still be around I think some of them, but I think they’ll be in decline in five years. 

And so, at the same time there’s huge opportunities for, you know, entrepreneurs like yourself or companies to become media brands in themselves or individuals to become media brands and I think there’s going to just be, that’s you know, the economy that is built on top of the media ecosystem is huge.

I think about the advertising agencies in that entire complex, you know, you think about the PR industry. It’s a huge industry around media and not just the people who employed in the media business and obviously as they begin to go through changes so will all these industries.

Recorded on: May 27, 2009


Steve Rubel Talks Tech

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