Big Think

Big Think
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Big Think is the leading source of expert-driven, actionable, educational content -- with thousands of videos, featuring experts ranging from Bill Clinton to Bill Nye, we help you get smarter, faster. We aim to help you explore the big ideas and core skills that define knowledge in the 21st century, so you can apply them to the questions and challenges in your own life.

Richard Dawkins: How I Persuade People Who Disagree with Me

Author, speaker, and public intellectual Richard Dawkins is a first-class debater on subjects as grand and reaching as the very existence (or lack thereof) of a master creator. But he's got a simple yet highly effective technique to win people over to see his point of view. Find out what it is right here. Read more at Follow Big Think here: YouTube: Facebook: Twitter: Sometimes you’re not trying to persuade the person that people think you’re trying to persuade. What you’re actually doing is trying to persuade lots of other people at the same time. I’ve spent my whole life as an educator, as a scientific educator at Oxford and at Oxford we have a rather unique system: a tutorial system where every student gets a one hour one-on-one tutorial each week with a tutor. And I had this as an undergraduate, which I absolutely loved, and then throughout my career I was a tutor. So I would have student after student after student coming into my room, spending an hour with me; they would produce an essay, we will talk about it, and I would be trying to, we would have a conversation. So I got very practiced in the art of persuading people of scientific things. And I think this may show itself in my writing the discipline of putting yourself in the shoes of the reader, of the other person, asking yourself all the time: “What could be misunderstood here? In what way might my words be misconstrued? How could I... this person is not really getting it, I can see it from their face that they’re puzzled, maybe an analogy would help, maybe a metaphor would help.” So I suppose the only general thing I can think is put yourself in the position of your audience, try to see where they’re coming from sympathetically and, um, argue your case in a way that should resonate with them. There is a difference between persuading a single individual, which is what I was talking about in the case of an Oxford tutorial, and persuading a whole audience who are, say, reading a book or listening to perhaps a radio program where sometimes—I’ve done quite frequently in America—I’ve done shows where there’s a phone in and people phone in and ask me questions or have an argument with me. And there I have sometimes given up, I have to confess this I have sometimes given up on the quest to persuade the person who is arguing with me I might regard them as a lost cause, but I’m conscious of the fact that thousands of other people are listening in, and the way I handle my argument with the one person who—maybe say a Young Earth creationist—who is beyond redemption and clearly they aren’t going to believe anything I say. Nevertheless the method that I argue with them maybe a total failure as far as persuading them is concerned, but nevertheless may persuade thousands of other people who are listening in.

8 ore fa

Why You Believe Lies You Hear More Often | Derek Thompson

Even if you think of yourself as a human lie detector, there are some untruths that will sneak under the hood. For that, you can thank your brain, and it's absolute adoration for all things familiar, says Derek Thompson, senior editor at The Atlantic. One of the oldest findings in psychology history is the 'mere exposure effect', in which merely being exposed to something makes you biased toward it—parents influence their children by playing certain music around the house that they will love their whole lives, or they instill a political preference in them from an early age. You are drawn to what you know, and that bias really matters when it comes to digital media and the fake news phenomenon. Once something becomes memorable, we tend to conflate familiarity with fact. "This is one of the big reasons why it’s difficult to myth-bust on television or myth-bust in journalism, because sometimes the mere repetition of that myth biases audiences toward thinking that it’s true..." says Thompson. "The mere exposure of news to us biases us toward thinking that that news item is true." Facebook has an enormous ethical responsibility in this, he says, because it is the world's largest and most influential news outlet—whether it intended to be or not. Thompson believes there is no algorithmic fix for fake news that spreads via Facebook, only a human one: "The answer to a problem of a lack of human ethics in information markets is the introduction of more humans and more ethics," he says. Derek Thompson's latest book is Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction. Read more at Follow Big Think here: YouTube: Facebook: Twitter: Transcript: Two of the favorite terms that I learned in writing this book are fluency and disfluency, and these terms relate to the idea that we have feelings about our thoughts. And that sounds hippie-dippy, but some thoughts feel easy. It feels easy to listen to a song for the 50th time. It feels easy to watch a rerun or easy to read an article that we already agree with. Those are fluent thoughts; those are thoughts that feel good and easy. But there are also all sorts of experiences, all sorts of types of thinking, that feel difficult and that’s what we call disfluency. So being lost in a foreign country and trying to figure out what all of the signs mean: that is disfluent. Reading an article that is trying to express a position that you consider morally abhorrent: that is disfluent too. But what’s most fascinating about fluency and disfluency is how they exist together. So imagine that you’re in that foreign country and you’re trying to read all of the signs, and it’s in some Slavic language that you don’t speak and you feel lost and anxious and your brain is hurting with all of these sort of thoughts that are going through it. And suddenly you turn around and you see an old friend from high school that you immediately recognize and who knows that foreign language. That is an “ah-ha” moment. That is a moment where you transition from disfluent thinking to fluent thinking. And there are all sorts of studies that have said that we love these “ah-ha” moments. We love them in art. We love figuring out art. We love them in storytelling. We love the disfluency of not knowing who the murderer is, and then that moment when—ding!—we got it, we know who the murderer is. We even love it, I think, in ordinary political opinion writing when someone takes a complex subject and expresses it in such a beautifully clarifying way, it’s like solving a crossword puzzle for politics; we have—click—an “ah-ha” moment. And I truly think that people are looking for "ah-ha" moments across the cultural landscape. I think that "ah-ha" moments are a large part of what we want from storytelling, what we want from a great education, what we want from a great article or a great book. We are looking for both fluency and disfluency yielding to each other so that we can feel those transition moments that are invigorating and that make us feel like the act of thinking is worth it. One of the oldest findings in psychology history is called the mere exposure effect. And the mere exposure effect says that the mere exposure of any stimulus to you biases you toward that stimulus. So children who grow up eating more spicy foods tend to like more spicy foods. People who grow up with their parents listening to more jazz end up liking more jazz timbres and more jazz styles.

un giorno fa

Did Religion Start One of Humanity’s Worst Revolutions? | Reza Aslan

One of the single-most transformative events in human history was the agricultural revolution. Why did we stop hunting and gathering, and start planting and harvesting? It's a mystery, but scholars have speculated that perhaps it was because of a changing climate, or a drop in animal numbers in certain regions. A third option, which author and religious scholar Reza Aslan supports, is the hypothesis that institutionalized religion spurred early human agriculture in southeastern Turkey about 12,000 to 14,000 years ago—and he believes it has been a disaster for our species. "Human beings actually ended up consuming fewer calories—and certainly fewer proteins—during the agricultural revolution than they did when we were hunter-gatherers," he says. "... We’ve discovered that the process of farming actually created a whole range of new and, at that time, absolutely novel diseases and problems with human beings." In this view, organized religion is also responsible for the inequality that dominates the world today. Surplus food stocks and the advent of ownership in newly settled communities led to wealth accumulation and, ultimately, the stratification of society. The agricultural revolution may have been a net negative for humanity, says Aslan. What's more difficult to say, however, is where we'd be right now without it. Reza Aslan's latest book is God: A Human History. Read more at Follow Big Think here: YouTube: Facebook: Twitter: Transcript: I am by no means the first person to point out that the agricultural revolution was a disaster for human beings. Lots of scholars before me have made the similar point. And this is very important because the agricultural revolution takes place at the same time as the Neolithic revolution, right? It’s seen as this massive jump in human evolution where we stopped hunting and gathering and we began planting and harvesting instead. And the common sense theory is that this was a good thing for humanity. That it increased our food supply. That it allowed us to actually settle and create villages. It essentially was the first step to creating what we know as civilization. Unfortunately the data does not back that up. On the contrary we now know due to studies of skeletons around the time of the Neolithic revolution that human beings actually ended up consuming fewer calories—and certainly fewer proteins—during the agricultural revolution than they did when we were hunter-gatherers. We’ve discovered that the process of farming actually created a whole range of new and at that time absolutely novel diseases and problems with human beings. I mean, as one scholar put it the Homo sapien body is not designed for planting. It’s designed for hunting. And it was. There were enormous costs to that transition. So there have been a lot of speculation about why the transition. Some have argued that it’s because of climatic reasons, that there was a massive shift of climate that essentially compelled people to begin planting. There’s really no evidence to prove that point. Some have said that it’s because there was a sudden drop in the number of species that were available to be hunted. There’s again no real evidence of that at all. This is one of those moments again where we just don’t know why. But I present what I think is a fairly novel theory, one that others have discussed before—which is that the reason we stopped hunting and gathering and starting farming instead was because of religion (and in this particular case institutionalized religion). The argument goes back to a site in southeastern Turkey called Gobekli Tepe. This is as far as we know the oldest temple to have ever been unearthed. t’s about 12,000 to 14,000 years old. It’s a massive temple in the middle of a desert region, a place where no one lived. So we know that this was a place of religious significance, a place that was not habitable, that people came from all over the land to actually take part in some kind of devotional activity at this temple. And we also know that the building of this temple coincided with the first signs of agriculture in that region. The theory is complex but in the simplest way it’s that: in order to essentially feed the workers who built this massive temple over the course of many, many decades—and then in order to feed what would have been perhaps thousands of people who would come to this temple in order to actually take part in the devotions there—it was necessary to come up with food surplus options. One of those ideas was to take the naturally growing stocks of wheat and barley that were growing around the region and to start actually planting them with purpose

2 giorni fa

Middle America vs. The Liberal Elite: What Does It Mean to Be All-American? | Ariel Levy

Middle America is tired of those latte-sipping liberals and their "elite media" hanging out in New York City, but author and New Yorker staff writer Ariel Levy makes the case that Americans aren't as different from one another as they'd like to think—and in fact they are all bound by one thing: truth. "No little falsehood is okay, ever, and we take that very seriously," says Levy, speaking of the allegiance to truth and extreme fact-checking that happens at The New Yorker. Journalists are human, and therein lies inevitable errors, but to claim that fake news is coming from the liberal media or that climate science is liberal propaganda is very much off base, she says. Here she delves into what the journalist's mandate is, and why there's no point making up facts: reality gets you in the end. Ariel Levy's memoir The Rules Do Not Apply, is out now. Read more at Follow Big Think here: YouTube: Facebook: Twitter: Transcript: There are lattes in the middle of Ohio now. When Seinfeld was on and everybody loved it, guess what? It was Jews from New York. This idea that we're so out of touch and that this culture we've come up with here is anathema to the rest of the country—guess what: we're as real American as everybody else, and sure there are more liberals here. Sure, we're used to a more heterogeneous population in New York City than what I just saw when I was reporting in Maine last week, but there was plenty of “latte,” and we're not that different, and we're not any less American. It's also a matter of like: "Sorry about the facts." Sorry that “Big Science”, which is to say scientists, have realized that if we keep doing things the way we're doing them we are going to end the world. "Sorry!" I mean, I wish it weren't so, but it doesn't make [climate change] a liberal phenomenon. It's just beyond my comprehension. The thing I was going to say about The New York Times is you notice that as much as the president likes to say it's fake news, the minute he goes and meets with their editors he says it's a “great American treasure”. I mean, it is the paper of record. Now in fairness they did make some mistakes. They're humans. All that stuff around the WMDs and right after the Iraq war—that is serious stuff that happened that The Times got wrong that eroded public trust. But I don't actually think that's what's going on—I don't think that's what this election was about. I mean, we know for a fact that it wasn't. We know for a fact that there was a very targeted system for disseminating the fake news. Long-form journalism is the only thing I've ever done—that and writing books. I don't know how to be a newspaper journalist. I think what they do is incredibly impressive, but I'm not trained to do it; I don't know how to do it. And they have a different mandate than we do. Their mandate is to attempt objectivity, and ours isn't. I mean, we are meant to tell the truth, and everything you read in The New Yorker has been fact checked more than you can believe, but the overall story I'm telling in any given—no matter what it is—it's always my version. And it's not my mandate to be without a perspective, it's not my mandate to remove myself, to have the least present authorial voice I can. That's not my mandate. My mandate is to try to make it interesting for the reader while informing the reader, with a complete allegiance to accuracy, but I'm allowed to tell the story however I want to, and that's the luxury. That's being a magazine journalist, and that's what I love about it. I'm never endeavoring to make myself or my point of view invisible. That's not my mandate. I'm trying to be subtle about it, because the quieter and sort of, you know—if I'm sly about it then it's more persuasive because you don't want to feel that someone has directed you to think this, that, and the other; you want to feel that you think that. But it's my job to lead you to think whatever it is I want you to. I mean, it depends how honest the individual journalist is, and how much allegiance he or she has to the truth, to accuracy. I am not wed to making every person feel that their perspective has been represented, I'm representing my perspective when I tell a story, but every single detail in that story will be the truth. And no little falsehood is okay, ever, and we take that very seriously.

3 giorni fa

How to Rebuild a Relationship After a Difference of Opinion | Angie McArthur

It's all too easy to develop a grudge, and let one bad experience inform how you view a person going forward. But as leadership expert Angie McArthur says, "The more certain we are, the more stuck we will remain." A moment of broken trust can compound into a closed mind, but to loosen up that knot, revisit the experience and ask yourself: how subjective is your narrative of the events? What was going on in your life at the time—and what may have been going on in theirs? "You can’t change people," says McArthur, "...but you can respect yourself and you can at least let them have the experience of being respected." When you start to see conflict as a diversity of ideas rather than targeted opposition, it becomes an enormous opportunity for growth and perspective taking. Here, McArthur speaks with diversity and inclusion expert Jennifer Brown about taking stock of past disagreements and mining them for growth opportunities. This live conversation was part of a recent New York panel on diversity, inclusion, and collaboration at work. Angie McArthur is the co-author of Reconcilable Differences: Connecting in a Disconnected World. Read more at Follow Big Think here: YouTube: Facebook: Twitter: Transcript: Often I hear, “I don’t want to be around that person because I don’t trust them anymore.” And so my question to them—and I’ve seen this at the very top of some of the largest companies, globally—is: what caused that trust to break down? And we each interpret even that word “trust” differently. And so you have to break it down into behaviors. So when you’re trying to reconnect with someone, it means going back to what initially caused that break to happen and question your bias on many levels, including how you envision the break down in trust to happen. And I think it’s the word “respect”—actually the root of it—means the ability to see one as if for the first time again. And I think we have to all challenge ourselves to know that because someone was difficult in one situation or even multiple situations it doesn’t mean they’re going to be difficult forever. That we’re constantly working on this ability that we all have, and this necessity we all have to connect, and maybe there’s multitudes of other things going on, but to constantly come back to that place of, “Okay, what do I need right now, here in this moment, to build connection with this person?” Jennifer Brown: That’s such good advice. I would add: forgiveness is powerful. I’d say second and third and fourth chances, and I agree with you that people change. So how somebody was in a particular context or situation might not have been their best self. There may have been intervening circumstances. So I don’t think we can—can we ever really say that “someone is this way with me and I know that it’s a fact”? I’ve really learned that there’s no door that’s ever really closed— unless I think it is, and sometimes I’m wrong. Many times I’m wrong about that. So I do really challenge myself to look at every situation and person anew as often as I can. And sometimes that includes forgiveness, it includes the acknowledgement that maybe your opinion about what happened is a subjective one, and may not be the reality. Angie McArthur: Yes, and it comes back to, always: the more certain we are, the more stuck we will remain. So if I am certain a person is a certain way, shows up a certain thing, that creates this, you know—it creates certainty. So again, it’s shifting from certainty to discovery. And I’m not saying this is easy. It’s difficult. I’ve been in some of the literally toughest conversations with people where someone is so—what we literally would say is absolutely closed-minded. Like it doesn’t matter what I say or do, they are of that opinion. They are so certain.In that moment you do need to ask yourself: How do I want to leave this conversation? I know I have enough self-respect and respect for the work of diversity and inclusion that I want to leave this person with, ‘I hear where you are coming from and I hope one day you will be able to listen to where I’m coming from.’You know, so it’s always that question: how do you want to leave that conversation, with that sense of self-respect? That's ultimately what is so important. You can’t change people in that moment. But you can respect yourself and you can at least have them have the experience of being respected. They may not be able to show the same to you, but we have to be willing to be okay that we don’t agree, but it doesn’t mean we disrespect one another or have to disconnect.Because until we can bridge and find these places where we can connect, where our differences lie will eventually hopefully be the places we can

4 giorni fa

How the Confederate Flags Came Down at the University of Mississippi | Harold Burson

Harold Burson — one of the co-founders of global public relations firm Burson-Marsteller — has a fascinating story about how the confederate flags came down once and for all at his alma mater, the University of Mississippi. It involves an angry chancellor, a powerful football coach, and a young Harold Burson himself as the former alumni who understood the power of compromise. They all played their part to rid the campus of it's turbulent historical reminders, and Ole Miss is much better for it. Harold's latest book is The Business of Persuasion: Harold Burson on Public Relations. Read more at Follow Big Think here: YouTube: Facebook: Twitter: Transcript: I went to college at Ole Miss, the University of Mississippi, and I got a telephone call from the chancellor one day and he said, “Harold, I have got to get the flags—the confederate flags—off the campus.” And I said, “Robert, I think you’re smoking pot.” And he said, “No I’m not kidding you,” he said, “we’ve got to do it.” And I said, “Why have we got to do it?” And he said, “You know, I’ve been here for one year, I expect to be here for nine more, and I want my legacy to be that I made this a great public university.” And he said, “As long as those flags are on the ground, on the campus, that will never happen. And I don't want to be regarded that way." So I reluctantly said, “I’ll come down and spend a couple of days with you, and we’ll talk about it and I’ll talk to a variety of people to see how they feel about this.” And the feeling that I got on the campus was that “I’m all for getting the flags off the campus, but I am not going to be in the front row cheering that we have to do it.” And that came from all different levels. And my last interview was with the coach of the football team, and I said, “Coach, are the flags affecting your football program?” He said, “They’re killing us.” And I said, “Will you go a little slower and tell me how that works?” And he said, “In the state of Mississippi the best football players are black,” and he said, “with the flags on the campus we are not getting our share of the black players that are going to other schools.” Ole Miss was one of the few schools that still kept the flags on the campus. And I said to coach, I said, “Coach, you’re the only person who can get the flags off the campus.” And he said, “Why do you say that?” And I said, “Your redneck supporters, as you describe them, will take your head off if you go in that direction,” I said, “they’d much rather have a winning football team than to have the flags on the campus.” It was a trade-off. I had a lot of leverage. And he said, “Well, you may be right, but,” he said, “I’m not going to get involved in politics or this thing right now.” And I said, “I want you to have a press conference and say, ‘if you want a winning football team you’re going to have to take the flags off the games, off the grounds, off the campus grounds so that we can put together a winning football team.’” And after two games there were no more flags on the campus, and there haven’t been [any] since 1997. So the problem is, in most situations you don’t have that clean a trade off. I can’t give you exactly what you want or as much as what you want, but that is, really, I think the key to changing people’s minds about various issues.

5 giorni fa

How Star Wars Helps Us Understand Authoritarianism | Cass Sunstein

Nobody foresaw that a science-fiction story about a moisture farmer's adventure with a rag-tag group of interstellar ne'er-do-wells would break box-office records for 40 years and redefine American storytelling. But this Harvard Law professor has a few ideas why it's stuck around. Read more at Follow Big Think here: YouTube: Facebook: Twitter: Well, what Star Wars does is it tells us about parents and children and how connected each is to the other, and it is probably the most stirring tale (I think) of boy’s need for a dad and a dad’s need for a boy that we have in modern culture. And it kind of nails some of the intensity of those feelings. It also—and I think this is equally deep—tells us something about redemption. So the idea is that if you can get your kid to love you it’s probably going to be okay. And also if you do something heroic and good you can probably be redeemed in some sense of your soul—whether we’re talking about religion or not, you can be redeemed even if you were really a creep before that (at least if what you do that redeems yourself is very major and important, as it certainly was in Star Wars). I think we’re going to see themes about parents and kids and redemption in the new episodes as well. In terms of empires and republics, what the movies kind of capture (and I think nail) is that authoritarianism has a bit of an appeal. The idea that an authoritarian leader can get something done and maybe take a little bit of the chaos that freedom creates and then get it into some sort of management and that can make life a little more orderly—people like that. But it also tells us that in every human heart there is a kind of need for freedom (meaning there isn’t going to be a boot on your face) and there’s going to be a capacity for governing yourself. And the tale of the appeal of authoritarianism, which really kind of captures what happened in Nazi Germany and captures a little bit some of the appeal of authoritarians all over the world including, currently, Turkey—it gets that and it gets that in a way that is true to the arc of human history. And the failures of authoritarianism—because people don't like a boot in their face—it kind of lightly, but memorably, captures that as well. So, if you’re in a country that’s poor and where people’s property rights aren’t secure, or you go on the streets and someone might beat you up, or if you’re in a country that’s doing pretty well (like the United States and some European nations) but terrorism is a risk—or if terrorism is unlikely still you might get something stolen, or somebody might knock you out because there’s violent crime, or even if it doesn’t happen to you if you read about it in the newspaper—then you might think law and order is a pretty good corrective. And even if law and order means that civil liberties and civil rights will be reduced, maybe that’s a trade you’ll be willing to take. And we certainly saw that in the United States at times over the past let’s say 40 years. And while in the United States (in my view) nothing really horrific as happened in terms of the rise of authoritarianism, the fact that there have been movements away from civil rights and civil liberties is suggestive of something that’s possible when people feel really at risk. So what Star Wars captures—and this makes it transcend the kind of simple dichotomy between the light side and the dark side of the force—is it says that the Dark Side, it does have a seductive power, either because it means that each of us can wield power if we “go dark”, or because it means that somebody at least is going to be in control of human impulses that can threaten us. And if the controlling power is reflecting those forces that’s not so good, but some people would rather live in an orderly society that is not day-to-day let’s say unraveling than a society that is free, because freedom suggests the possibility at least of a little unraveling.

6 giorni fa

How to Predict a Company Crisis: Uber, Lego, Marvel Comics

How did Lego survive a near-total financial ruin? Why is Lyft way more popular that Uber amongst drivers? And how did Marvel gain a second wind some 60 years after it was founded? Read more at Follow Big Think here: YouTube: Facebook: Twitter: Y'know, overload – just think of all we see of Uber in the paper. We found four things that we called the “west winds” that hit rapidly growing companies and push them off track, and we called them the west winds. And one was having revenues growing much faster than you can grow talent. And just think of Uber, which has had as many as 13 of its top 20 positions unfilled and that has been having difficulty recruiting the most talented women because of some of the cultural issues. And when your talent is not growing at the same rate as your revenues breakdowns begin to happen. A second element of the west winds is what we call lack of accountability. And you can look at the culture as it evolved in Uber, which has been well reported, and say, “who is really accountable for the norms and values—deep, soulful values—of a company?” And it’s very easy to neglect that in the context of growth and hype and excitement and celebrity. Or a third one, or a third of these winds is what we called lost voices from the frontline. And if you look at, for example, the loyalty numbers that you can find all over the internet of Lyft versus Uber drivers, what you find is that the loyalty of Uber drivers is going down, because they’re a little bit frustrated with a lot of the publicity and with some of the behaviors that they’ve observed, and they’re more disoriented about the company. And so these west winds hit rapidly growing companies. And what we found is that when we looked at these unicorns, we took 26 unicorns about 10 years ago, 10 to 12 years ago, and we traced them. And we found that virtually 100 percent of them—and two-thirds of them had slowed down dramatically and never hit what people wanted them to. Uber would be an example. And second, we found that in virtually all of the cases the deep inner root cause was not that it was a bad idea in the first place or the market had gone away; It was actually inner breakdowns like this case. And all of these linked to the founder’s mentality, 1) of linkage to the frontline, 2) maintaining a clear purpose versus overcomplicating what you’re trying to do and becoming greedy and doing too much, and 3) creating mini founder experiences that make people really want to become part of it. The second crisis is the more predominant crisis, and it’s what we call a stall-out. So if you think of a company, let’s say like Lego, which since the 1930s was a great founder company through three or four generations. The first did it in wooden blocks. The next brought it to plastic. The next created the business systems. And it was voted the toy of the year by the British toy industry. And yet the next generation began to say “No, what our core is is the brand. We’re not a toy company.” And so they went into many, many things that massively complicated the business from theme parks to joint ventures with Steven Spielberg in small theaters to retail endeavors to plastic watches to books, and on and on and on. And it sucked the energy out of the core and resulted in stall-out to a point where the company had 18 months of cash left. And the solution to that was to massively reduce complexity, exit all those businesses (by the CEO who courageously went in, Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, well reported in the press) and it gave the company 12 years. He brought technology into the bricks. He found out who the core customers were. They didn’t know there were 400,000 people who are obsessed with Lego, they brought them into the design process. And they did many, many things to actually go back to the essence of what made the company great in the first place, which was the mission of learning, and the customer desire for toy systems that would help children creatively. And they even did things like take the corporate headquarters (which was in a bright, gleaming new building) and brought it back into the factory and the distribution center. So that’s an example of stall-out, and that’s an example of a company that then had 12 years of very, very good growth as a result of, in a sense, finding the key to it—where the Founder’s Mentality elements were part of the playbook.

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Why People Cheat on Their Partners | Esther Perel

We all know what infidelity is, but a universal definition is difficult to carve out—especially in the digital age. Is watching porn cheating, or is it only cheating if the person on the other side of the screen is live? Each scenario is subjective, but psychotherapist Esther Perel crystalizes the three elements that lie at the heart of all cheating: secrecy, sexual alchemy, and emotion—even if the person don't think so. Cheating is typically interpreted as a symptom of a bad relationship or of something lacking in a partner, however one of the biggest revelations for Perel in researching her latest book, The State of Affairs, was that happy people also stray. Even people in satisfying relationships find themselves crossing the line they never thought they would. So what gives? "They often stray not because they want to find another person but because they want to reconnect with a different version of themselves," she says. "It isn’t so much that they want to leave the person that they are with as much as sometimes they want to leave the person that they have themselves become." Esther Perel is the author of The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity. See more at Read more at Follow Big Think here: YouTube: Facebook: Twitter: Transcript: So I wrote a book in which I wanted not only to look at infidelity from the point of view of the impact and the consequences but also from the point of view of the meanings and the motives. Why do people do this? Why do people who often have been faithful for decades one day cross the line they never thought they would cross? What’s at stake? How do we make sense of this? How do we grow from that? Can it ever become an opportunity? Can a couple ever glean something that ultimately may strengthen it, rather than only seeing it from the point of view of the cataclysm? To write a book where I try to understand infidelity doesn’t mean that I’m justifying it. And when one doesn’t condemn it, it doesn’t mean that one is condoning it. But this experience affects so many people. I have worked with hundreds, thousands of people who have been shattered by the experience of infidelity. And I thought there needs to be a better way that is more caring and more compassionate for the crisis that so many people face. So at the heart of affairs, what is infidelity? That is the question people often ask me. How do I define it? And interestingly there is no universally agreed upon definition of infidelity. And, in fact, the definition keeps on expanding with the advent of the digital. What is it? Is it staying secretly active on your dating apps? Is it watching porn, but not when the other person is live? Is it massage with happy endings? Where is the line? It’s never been easier to cheat, and it’s never been more difficult to keep a secret. So this diffuseness is very much at the heart of trying to define it. But there are three elements that are always present. And the more important one, the constitutive element of an affair, is the fact that it is organized around a secret. The structure of infidelity is its secrecy. That is why it is such a major difference from the conversation about monogamy or consensual non-monogamy. Those are two separate realities. So an affair is organized around the structured element called secret. The second element is that there is a sexual aura, an alchemy. Not necessarily the presence of sex itself; it’s not the bodily experiences, it’s the energy much more than the performance. And three, that there is an emotional involvement to one degree or another—from a deep love affair to even a transaction in which one pays for the other person to leave. But there is always a meaning to it. That is what I call the emotional involvement. Even when you try to make something mean nothing, it means a lot. Our current model of thinking says if you have found “the one and only” it means that you’re willing to forego everything else for that person and you no longer miss anything else. If you have everything you need there is no need to go looking elsewhere. If you have gone to look elsewhere there must be something missing—either there’s something missing in you or in your relationship. We are very wedded today to looking at infidelity and transgressions from a symptom perspective. It’s the symptom model. "There must be something wrong.” But I often was thinking that millions of people can’t all be pathological. So if it is not the case that it is always a symptom, what is it? And one of the great discoveries and surprises in my research for 'The State of Affairs' was to notice that people would come and say, “I love my partner; I’m having an affair.”

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Why Casting “Bigots” Out Doesn’t Move America Forward | Van Jones

For many years now, America has been tying itself into an enormous Gordian Knot. In Phrygian mythology, this was an epic tangle of rope that no man could untie, despite great rewards, until Alexander the Great came along and cut it in half with his sword—or so the legend goes. Cutting the Gordian Knot is an expression that has come to mean thinking outside the box or finding a creative loophole when faced with a seemingly impossible problem. America is in one such impossible tangle right now, struck by political division that has bled into devastating social division. So what is the loophole we aren't seeing, asks CNN news commentator Van Jones? He suggests having empathy and understanding for everyone who is affected by the march of progress—not just those who are gaining ground, but those who are losing it. If someone liked America "the way that it was," are they really a bigot? "I think people just want to be witnessed in their struggle without being judged and condemned," he says. There is a limit to empathy, however: you cannot tolerate the intolerant for too long—but having empathy for those who interpret change as scary, and understanding why they think that way, may be the only inroad to untying this great mess. Van Jones is the author of Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together. Read more at Follow Big Think here: YouTube: Facebook: Twitter: Transcript: This whole question around tolerance and empathy and understanding and where the limits are is a very, very tough conversation and I come down in an odd place. On the one hand I think we have to defend very aggressively the most vulnerable constituencies in America: Muslims, immigrants, transgender people, LGBT, women, African Americans, low-income people, and I think you have to be aggressive about it. I think you have to be passionate about it. I think you have to be serious about it. If we’re going to have liberty and justice for all and not liberty and justice for some, then we’ve got a lot of work to do. And I think that’s important. At the same time there sometimes can be a loss of empathy for those constituencies that may feel that they have to give up something to get to equality. For those of us who are trying to gain something to get to equality we can be very passionate, and it feels good—we're making up lost ground over generations of discrimination, we’re overcoming that, it feels great. For other people, even just psychologically, they may feel that they’re losing ground, and it’s sometimes hard for us to have much empathy for that and we tend to go into, “Shut up! You guys have had the game to yourselves. You're disproportionally the business leaders and the senators and everything else, and it’s our turn, and shut up.” And that’s totally understandable, it just may not work very well because change is hard for people. If you’re a liberal—you look at gentrification. Here’s a neighborhood that used to have African Americans or Latinos or whatever, and then you go away for five years, you come back, and the hipsters have come and they’ve set up their kale shops and bike things everywhere, and you’re like, “Hey!” It’s like Oakland California right now: West Oakland is being completely transformed by its proximity to Silicon Valley, and people who work for Google and all these places are now moving into West Oakland, totally changing the place. I sometimes look at that and I go, “Hey, hold on a second; I liked Oakland the way it was!” And if I can build a wall around Oakland and make Silicon Valley pay for it, I might consider that, because I liked Oakland the way that it was. Now, that doesn't mean that we should close the borders or that Trump is right, I'm not saying that at all. I think we need more immigration not less, and I think we need a faster pathway for us to steal all the best talent from around the world and the hardest workers, rather than slower. I think America gets to compete better because we get to cheat and get all the good people from everywhere here. But can I have a bridge of empathy and understanding to somebody who says, “Hey, wait a minute. I liked America the way that it was when I grow up, I liked certain things. I’ve got some grief now. I’ve got some anxiety now. I’ve got some fear now.”

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Why Being Different at Work Is Risky Business: Diversity, Stereotyping, and Success

Psychologist Valerie Purdie Greenaway is the first African American to be tenured in the sciences at Columbia University, in its entire 263 year history. Despite her celebrated position—and, in fact, perhaps because of it—she still struggles with perception, subtle stereotyping, and the enormous stakes of being one of few women of color in a leadership role. Here, Valerie Purdie Greenaway speaks with diversity and inclusion expert Jennifer Brown about being "the only" in a workplace, whether that is along lines of gender, race, culture, or sexual orientation, and how organizations and individuals can do more to recognize and address their biases. That also means letting go of the idea that stereotyping is a malevolent case of "bad people doing bad things." What does discrimination really look like day to day? Most of it is subconscious, subtle, and is deeply embedded into the structure of organizations, which can have an impact on performance, mentorship, and staff turnover. Do you recognize any of your own behavior in this discussion? This live conversation was part of a recent New York panel on diversity, inclusion, and collaboration at work. Read more at Follow Big Think here: YouTube: Facebook: Twitter: Transcript: Jennifer Brown: There is a lot of interesting new technology that scrubs job descriptions for gendered words, because they are—literally the ways that companies are presenting opportunities is screening out—women are self-screening out, because they’re seeing words that they don’t relate to or resonate with. So technology is going to have to help us shortcut our biases because we are so, unfortunately, kind of hopeless when it comes to that. It's really hardwired into us to be biased against maybe ourselves and believing the stereotypes we hear, but then also particularly bias coming at us, of course, from folks who have not done the work around their own choices, right, putting us into boxes. So I want to know from you about when you experienced, in your career, some stereotype threat, and how did you correct for it when you know that it may be being applied to you? How do you not get swamped by that? It’s like “the death by a thousand cuts,” you know, it does accumulate, and then it causes a lot of us, frankly, to leave organizations. We can’t even put a fine point on it, but we feel; we don’t feel valued and heard and welcomed. So how did you overcome that and claim your power and align that? Valerie Purdie Greenaway: Yes, that’s a great question. So first, by way of background: as a professor at Columbia, I’m the first African American to ever be tenured in the sciences since Columbia started. So I think it’s an incredible achievement but it also says a lot about even where we are today. People think I don’t struggle; I struggle every single day. I have perfectionistic “syndrome” where I work on an article for a year, and then I work on it for another year. And I know the literature that women are more likely to do that, that perfectionistic syndrome is linked to being worried about being stereotyped. I make lots of decisions where I think very carefully about how I am perceived by others, and oftentimes I’ll be in, say, a faculty meeting or even when I’m talking to companies and senior leaders, and I’m like, “Well, how many comments should I make about race versus gender versus religion? Am I being seen as too this or too that?” So I worry about these things all the time. But a couple of things I know to be true: one is that when you take calculated risks and you put yourself a little bit out there, almost always something amazing happens. And so that is one thing that I’ve learned. Two, I really believe that the whole diversity and inclusion architecture, people don’t understand the underlying science of it, and when they understand that it’s not about “people doing bad things” but about these structural differences, it sort of gives me hope and that helps me take these calculated risks. And I think the third thing is just me personally knowing, like, I will feel anxiety. Every time I sit down to write a paper, I go, “I’m the first African American tenured in the sciences, so this has got to be really good. This has to be, like, great. What do I do?!” Whenever I think about that I understand that that’s coming partly from an environment where there’s lots of stereotypes. And just knowing that helps me kind of take a little bit off in terms of anxiety. But it’s something that I still work through every day, and it’s something that I work with senior leaders to help illuminate, that when you see underperformance

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Why America Spies on Allies, Enemies, and Itself | Barry Posen

Americans have gotten so used to being surveilled by the intelligence community that they barely register it as an invasion of privacy, says MIT professor Barry Posen. He goes further to say that the kind of data collection used by the government could very easily be used to in nefarious ways (should someone nefarious get their hands on it). Another big issue he suggests is the price tag that this surveillance costs American taxpayers. At $70,000,000,000... that so-called "security" might be priced way too high. The Charles Koch Foundation aims to further understanding of how US foreign policy affects American people and societal well-being. Through grants, events, and collaborative partnerships, the institute is working to stretch the boundaries of foreign policy research and debate by discussing ideas in strategy, trade, and diplomacy that often go unheeded in the US capital. For more information, visit Read more at Follow Big Think here: YouTube: Facebook: Twitter: Transcript: It is an unclassified number—and has been for several years—what the United States spends on intelligence every year. It’s an unclassified number. They don’t really break out what they’re spending it for, they break it out only in terms of two categories: “general intelligence” and military intelligence. And the totals for many years now have been around $70 billion. 7-0 billion dollars. $70 billion. About 20 billion for military, which helps you fight, about 50 billion, “just because”, to surveil the world. Now I have to say, I’m skeptical that we need to spend $70 billion on intelligence. I’m skeptical about what some of this intelligence is buying and doing. I’m skeptical. Intelligence in general is what you need for defense or offense, you need it for restraint, you need it for hegemony. Intelligence you need to run a great power strategy. But I’d like to unpack what it is that we’re doing a little bit better, and look at some of these activities and ask “is this really necessary?” Because my impression is we pretty much spy on everything given the chance: friends, enemies, whomever. During the peak of our 9/11 anger and hurt we spied on ourselves. And we spied on ourselves without really sorting out the legal ramifications of it. We collected vast amounts of metadata, stored it. This is spying on Americans! We’re doing a little bit less of it now, but it’s not very hard for an American who has friends abroad to get caught up in surveillance. There’s just a lot of collection, a lot of collection. And a lot of this information is stored so that if something happens, the IC, using fancy algorithms, can backtrack communications among individuals to figure out who was implicated and who knew who. If you have the big library and you have the guilty party, you can then reverse engineer to try and figure out who else was implicated. It doesn’t prevent the terrorist attack, but it does allow you to prosecute the group. But all the rest of us end up compromising our privacy for this purpose, and we have to... this is another thing where we should have a conversation. And it’s not an easy and straightforward conversation, because some people would privilege safety and say “Fine, they can have that metadata on me, the traffic, the numbers I called. As long as they’re not collecting the text of my phone calls they can collect the origins of my phone calls and emails, keep them in a library anonymized until they need to de-anonymize them.” Some people say “Fine, if that’s what we need to be able to backtrack a terrorist event and break up a network.” They’re fine with that. I’m a little uncomfortable with it, I have to say. But I don’t think it’s an open and shut straightforward matter, I think these things about the magnitude of the American intelligence effort worldwide, what that effort was focusing on, how much information it ends up collecting at home—this is something that really needs to be discussed, because I think it has something to do with American liberties. And so, this is not particularly what I spend my days doing, but I have some... I do feel uneasy about it, and I do tend to believe that the more active we are in international politics, the more this machine grinds on, the more we collect abroad, the more we’re going to collect at home, and the bigger the kind of amorphous mass of information waiting to be misused by someone is, and that’s the thing that kind of concerns me.

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How Boredom Supercharges Your Original Thinking | Manoush Zomorodi

Are cell phones destroying creativity? Podcast host, author, and relentless examiner of the modern human condition Manoush Zomorodi believes that they are. When we are bored, the brain enters what is called "default mode"—think about the way your mind wanders when you're in the shower or doing the dishes. This might not seem like valuable time but our creativity really kicks into high gear. We now use up a lot of that boredom-time by poking at our phones, and in doing so are starving ourselves of a main source of inspiration. Read more at Follow Big Think here: YouTube: Facebook: Twitter: So the original Bored and Brilliant challenge was based on an extremely mundane situation that happened to me in that I sat down to try and come up with some good ideas for my podcast. We were doing well. I wanted to like, you know, I wanted to kill it. It was 2014 and I sat down to sort of make a list which has usually worked for me and I felt like there was nothing. There was this blankness. It was almost as though there was sand in my brain. And I started to think like what the—you know, first of all, what the hell, and second of all, well wait a minute. When had I had my last best ideas and why was I potentially having so much trouble now? And I thought back and it was really when I was staring out the window – it was such a cliché. It was when I was staring out the window or I was in the shower or I was pushing my kid’s stroller for miles and miles. That is when I had my best ideas. And now I realize that all those little cracks in my day, all those moments when I used to sort of just be spacing out what was I doing? I was looking at this thing, right? I was looking at my phone when I was waiting in line for coffee, when I was on the bus, every single one of those moments. And it made me realize like I was never bored ever in my life anymore. In fact, I might not have been bored since I think 2009 which is when I first got an iPhone. I was a late adopter. And so then it made me thing like well what actually happens in our brains when we get bored and what could potentially be happening if we never get bored ever again, if we got rid of this human state all together. Is boredom actually a useful sort of emotion. So I reached out to my audience and I was like are you guys thinking about this too? And you have to remember this is a couple of years ago, right. So are you thinking about this? Are you thinking about the fact that your phone could be disrupting the way you think, the way you come up with ideas, maybe your creativity. And people were like yes, absolutely I’m thinking about this. So I put it out to them. I was like well would you be willing to do an experiment with me where we take a week. We try to tweak our digital behavior and we see if we can indeed jumpstart our creativity by getting bored more often. And I kind of thought like 200 people would sign up to do this or something and 20,000 people signed up within the first 48 hours. So it was pretty exciting and gratifying that it wasn’t just me who was feeling like there was sand in their brain. So what I wanted to understand first of all was what actually happens in our brains when we get bored. And it’s fascinating. I had no idea that we are at this moment in history where we are starting to understand what happens in the brain when we allow it to just sort of wander where it wants to go. And so what they know now is that when you get bored you activate a network in your brain called the default mode. And you can’t – this is different than mindfulness, right. This is when you’re folding laundry or like ambling down the street or just lying on the couch. Not watching Game of Thrones and tweeting at the same time. So what happens in the default mode is this network ignites your most original thinking. It is where you do your best problem solving and you also do something called autobiographical planning which I had never heard of. This is where you look back at your life, you take note of the highs and the lows and you build a personal narrative. You figure out what is your story and then where are you going to go from there. Where does the story continue. You set goals and then you figure out the steps that you need to take to reach those goals. Now, of course, you can’t ignite the default mode if you are focusing on something like your phone or you can’t tap the brain power if you’re tapping a screen. Now this is extremely important things... understanding who you are, theory of mind, what you want to be when you grow up because... it feels like we all want to know what we’re going to be when we grow up. This is really it’s long term planning.

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The Science of Successful Things: Star Wars, Steve Jobs, and Google’s Epic Fail | Derek Thompson

Read more at Follow Big Think here: YouTube: Facebook: Twitter: My book Hit Makers is essentially about the science of why we like what we like. And one of the most interesting answers to that question is MAYA, most advanced yet acceptable. And this was of the theory of everything by Raymond Loewy the father of industrial design in America. And a lot of people today don’t know who Raymond Lowey is, but this is a guy who was essentially kind of like Steve Jobs meets Don Draper from the 1950s. He invented or designed the first… He designed the most famous car design in the 20th century the 1950 Studebaker, the modern train, the modern greyhound bus, the modern tractor, even that pencil sharpener that looks like an egg that was his design. And in thinking about this question how could one person understand what consumers want from things as different as cars and pencil sharpeners his answer was this, MAYA, most advanced yet acceptable. People are torn between neophilia on the one hand, they like new things, and neophobia on the other hand, they’re afraid of anything that’s too new. And he was this genius essentially of combining familiarity and surprise. I think the most useful way to think about the MAYA principle is to think of it as to sell something familiar make it surprising, but to sell something surprising make it familiar. Let’s take an example like Star Wars. George Lucas was working on Star Wars for a long, long time. The script was absolutely terrible. He was sharing it with his best friends like Francis Ford Coppola and they were all telling him that the script was absolute garbage. And he had essentially built this incredibly surprising novel new world filled with Jedis and forces and magic and creatures that no one had seen before. And then he was reading this book by Joseph Campbell on the mono myth, on this idea that every great story in human history has essentially been the same story of an ordinary person who goes on an extraordinary journey, defeats a nemesis intimately involved in his own origin story and then comes back to the real world as the hero. And so he said this is it this is the story that explains that is Jesus, that is Buddha, that is the Odyssey and the Iliad, I’ll take this incredibly familiar structure and I’ll put it into this incredibly surprising world building exercise and that is Star Wars, it essentially sales an incredibly surprising world in an incredibly familiar narrative setting. And I think that’s one reason why we like it. It’s not so much that it’s novel, it’s that it’s a novel setting that is essentially telling the oldest story known to man.

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Why Coding Skills Alone Won't Save You From Job Automation | Scott Hartley

The conventional wisdom developing in the face of job automation is to skill up: learn how to code, become a member of the rising tech economy. Venture capitalist Scott Hartley, however, thinks that may be counterproductive. "Just because you have rote technical ability, you may actually be more susceptible to job automation than someone who has flexible thinking skills," he says. Retraining yourself in tech-based areas is smart, but the smartest way to survive job automation is to develop your soft skills—like improvisation, relational intelligence, and critical thinking. Believe it or not, those 'softer' assets will rule in the digital age, so play to what makes you human. In time, everything else will be done by a robot. Scott Hartley is the author of The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World. Read more at Follow Big Think here: YouTube: Facebook: Twitter: Transcript: I think one of the big counterintuitive points that I draw out in the book 'The Fuzzy and the Techie' is this notion that just because you have technology skills doesn’t necessarily make you relevant in tomorrow’s tech-led, data-infused economy. And if you look at the underliers of jobs, there are tasks that make up every different job that we have, and each of our jobs have some subset of tasks that are rote, that are scripted, that are highly routine. These are things that, over time, we can either program robots to do them if they’re manual or we can program machines to do them through machine learning. But there’s always a subset that’s more complicated or more complex that requires collaboration, that requires communication or doing things that are on the frontier of what we haven’t seen before; things that require improvisation. And those are the very skills that require adaptive or flexible learning. And so I think the counterintuitive point is that just because you have rote technical ability you may actually be more susceptible to job automation than someone who has flexible thinking skills. So it’s this false dichotomy between having technical skills being relevant, having soft skills being irrelevant. In fact it’s more the opposite. So when we think about automation it’s necessary that we engage with data, it’s necessary that we learn the fundamentals of technology, that we learn to code, we learn to speak this new language, but I think we can’t forget as well the soft skills that will enable us to weather the changing economy as the machines continue to take more and more rote and scripted tasks away from humans. So the progress we’ve seen recently with things like deep learning with the DeepMind and AlphaGo and sort of playing the world champion in Go—I mean, these are fundamentally groundbreaking endeavors, I think the really interesting thing is that the artificial intelligence we talk about today is still context dependent; it’s still dependent on being on a board, being within the confines of a set of rules. And so if you think about simple tasks, those are rules-based tasks that may be very easy to automate, we’ve sort of migrated up the funnel where we’re talking about immensely complicated tasks. But I wouldn’t necessarily say that we’ve transgressed into complexity where there’s really something that’s off the board, off the chess board entirely, off the Go board entirely. And so I think when we can move to a realm where we’re not context dependent, to me that’s one of the definitional qualities of when it’s truly perhaps artificial intelligence and not sort of A.I. that’s largely human led or human guided.

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How to Accomplish More at Work by Slowing Down | Angie McArthur

When your method or worldview clashes with a colleague's, how do you respond? Leadership expert Angie McArthur has one word for these encounters: exciting. She views them as opportunities to develop relational intelligence—a skill that is sorely missing from most workplaces today. McArthur believes that the confusion of not understanding why someone acts or thinks a certain way is a growth opportunity that, in the long run, builds more productive teams that make stronger decisions. The problem is that our fast-paced performance culture leaves no time to step into that confusion and explore it—in fact, we don't even like to admit our confusion exists. Here, McArthur speaks with diversity and inclusion expert Jennifer Brown about slowing down and retraining your relational intelligence for quality results over fast deliverables. This live conversation was part of a recent New York panel on diversity, inclusion, and collaboration at work. Angie McArthur is the co-author of Reconcilable Differences: Connecting in a Disconnected World. Read more at Follow Big Think here: YouTube: Facebook: Twitter: Transcript: JENNIFER BROWN: Do you think relational intelligence is more important than ever, given we live in very polarizing times? And I know that this is kind of bleeding into the workplace and every client that I work with, where dialogue has really in some ways stopped because I think people don’t have this kind of intelligence. Because these are the tools where we keep the door open. These are the tools where we are curious with no agenda about establishing a connection with others. And I think it’s difficult because feelings are running high and that sort of “I’m going to square off against” is an easy energy. I think the harder energy is “staying with and staying in”. Something where you may feel there’s a disagreement that feels personal or emotional, et cetera. So what kinds of advice do you find yourself giving these days in particular, given that the stakes feel higher and it almost is the toughest time I can remember to build bridges? ANGIE MCARTHUR: Yes, absolutely. I mean, I really feel this. I get, now—actually this is going to sound very odd. I now get excited when I bump up against a difference with someone, because it’s an opportunity to practice exactly what I preach, which is stepping into the conversation, digging in. And the mantra that I carry that I would invite anyone to use on any possible connection is: what can I learn from this experience? How can I grow from this experience? If I hold that in my mind I feel like I can get through anything with anyone. And it takes this unbelievable courage to step in and dig in and be willing to be—which we don’t like in this culture at all—confused. Which changes your mindset. I love confusion and often in the team setting we don’t allow for confusion. And honestly when we bump up against differences and when we start going, “Oh, gosh, what she said is terrible,” or, “That guy over there…” you know. Often what happens in those circumstances is because we’re looking for quick answers, we’re looking for people to be right all the time. But any group or any team as they’re working through decisions, or even in family systems, you need to allow for confusion and group confusion: people being okay with, “Oh, I don’t quite get where she’s coming from,” or, “God, what he said, you know, that doesn’t make sense to me.” That’s okay. Step into it. Move into it. Open up those doors. Ask them more. And so I think that’s a huge part of it, is we’ve gotten very slick in how we expect people to be, with this “performance” kind of mindset. And confusion is a really necessary part of relating to one another well, because you won’t understand each other. Even people who have a huge amount in common, they will bump up against each other’s differences. So it’s that willingness to discover, to be awkward for a minute. That’s okay. I love awkwardness! Love confusion. So next time someone is sitting next to you and you find yourself confused instead of judging yourself or judging them say, “Huh, I wonder why that is.” JENNIFER BROWN: And it feels like the speed of business is almost counter to what you’re talking about because you’ve got to leave time to be confused and time to dive in and time to explore. And yet we live in this—like you said—a performance-based expectation culture where we deliver, deliver, deliver. And I feel like it’s a binary. That’s so binary, and yet it leaves so much behind.

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5 Reasons Why Russia Is No Match for the US | Stephen Walt

There's a lot of talk about Russia's hostility to America, thanks to their apparent (and to some—glaringly obvious) interference in the 2016 election. But in the grand scheme of things, Russia is small potatoes. America is bigger economically, has far more friends and thus a better world standing, and has a lot more going for it, as Stephen Walk explains here. Should we really be concerned with a country with a GDP some 15 times smaller than our own, with a rapidly aging population and no industry beside oil and gas? Stephen Walt's latest book is The Israel Lobby. Read more at Follow Big Think here: YouTube: Facebook: Twitter: Transcript: The United States is much stronger than Russia, and will be for the rest of my professional lifetime, and I would guess for the entirety of the 21st century unless we commit a series of almost unimaginable self-inflicted wounds. The United States first of all has a much larger economy. Our economy is now about $17 trillion, Russia’s is less than $2 trillion and has actually been declining in recent years. So we are already close to eight or nine or ten times stronger economically. The United States is much more powerful militarily: We spend four or five times more than Russia does on defense every year. We have much more sophisticated weaponry than Russia does. The United States is still blessed with allies in many parts of the world. These allies are for the most part rich, relatively powerful and stable. We’re talking about countries like Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and others. Russia by contrast has no allies of any real consequence. It has something of a friendly relationship with China, but it’s not really an alliance. And lastly Russia has a terrible demographic situation. Its population is much older than ours on average, and it’s aging rapidly; the population is projected to decline dramatically by 30 or 40 million people over the next 50 years or so. So for all of those reasons the United States has far more power potential. Last but not least, Russia’s only real economic asset now is oil and gas. People are not lining up to buy the next Russian smartphone or anything like that, so Russia’s long-term potential strikes me as not nearly as promising as that of the United States. Well, weaker states can still do a lot of things that cause trouble, and what Russia did in the 2016 election—the full extent of which and the importance of which we are still trying to figure out—certainly has roiled American politics in a variety of ways, so it does show that even much weaker powers can find various ways to interfere or cause problems. Now, it was in part because we were vulnerable to that kind of manipulation, and that’s our fault, not theirs. I would say a little bit more about this too, though: what Russia did is not unprecedented. The United States has interfered in democratic elections in lots of countries around the world, and you could argue that we've been doing a variety of things to try and encourage democratic forces, promote civil society, both in Russia or in countries close to Russia, in ways that they regard as alarming. We might think that we’re doing the right thing, spreading our values in various places, but you could certainly understand how Russia might regard that as threatening, and might even view what they did in 2016 as a form of payback: “If you want to manipulate politics in Ukraine, if you want to interfere in Russia in various ways, well we can do things to you as well.” So again, without knowing the full extent of what Russia may or may not have done we shouldn’t view this as unprecedented, and we shouldn’t view it as coming completely out of the blue. It doesn’t mean we have to like it, but it’s important I think to keep just how heinous it may or may not be in some context here. Again, Russia is simply not the kind of global superpower that the Soviet Union was. It doesn’t pose a significant ideological challenge to us, it seems to me. And to the extent that the United States is going to worry about a rival/peer/competitor, it’s not going to be Russia—it’s going to be China. But having said that, you can imagine circumstances where a confrontation between the two countries could begin to spin out of control, conceivably over what’s happening in Syria. If things in Ukraine were to heat up again and the United States got more actively involved there, one could imagine some kind of clash arising. I don’t think that leaders in Washington or leaders in Moscow actually want something like that to happen—Remember, we are still talking about two nuclear powers with thousands of nuclear weapons that could still be fired at each other, but I don’t think you can completely rule it out.

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Don't Look for the Upside of Suffering—There Just Isn't One

Ariel makes a startlingly blunt observation about death here: "That's life," she says, "That's the price we pay to keep being here as living people, that's the human condition: you lose the people you love." It's a hard metaphor to swallow, but for someone that lost her husband, her son, and her house, all in a two month period, she's somewhat of an expert of being able to look at grief in a pragmatic and practical way. Read more at Follow Big Think here: YouTube: Facebook: Twitter: Well, I'm not hugely optimistic at this particular moment about the fate of the world, so I can't lie about that. What I can say is that when I was in an intense state of grief and I had lost my son and my spouse and my house within a two month period, after the initial period of being like “I am F’d,” like, “This is not going to be okay. I'm going down,” eventually finding little nibs, little molecules in the air of hope about like a little thing, just like seeing a friend I really loved and remembering all the good times we'd had had like over 30 years or whatever, and then having like a little spot of hope like “maybe we'll have a good time again at some point.” Maybe some other wonderful thing. Just anywhere you can find a little second of hope and feel grateful for it and sort of dig into it, that's the way through the tunnel of grief. I mean that's what I've heard from a lot of people who I've been in communication with since this book came out and people then write to me about their experiences and come and tell me: that's how you live through, is like you just find some hope and it's like a little tiny fire and you blow on it until you've got yourself like a little hope “fire” going and then you can get through. I think that when you lose a person or a marriage or suffer a trauma—but the main thing I'm thinking about is loss, when you lose someone—I mean first of all, that's life, that's the price we pay to keep being here as living people, that's the human condition: you lose the people you love. And trying to sort of plow through that and look for the good in it? I don't think that works. I think the way through pain is suffering, is like leaning into the suffering and being like “I’m going to actually go ahead and suffer my guts out.” But throughout the process, moments of hope, if you're open to them, they come, and that's the way to keep going—is to find like where are there bits of hope and how can you be grateful for them and like feed them so that you can find some excitement about staying alive?

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How Emotion Hides What You Mean to Say—And How to Listen for It | Todd David

People like to talk. And when they talk, they often muddy the water about what they really mean because people tend to speak through an autobiographical lens, i.e., "this is my truth because it is from my perspective". Todd Davis, the Chief People Officer at Franklin Covey, has spent much of his career looking for the meaning in what people are saying, and has developed a way to better understand what people are really talking about. That technique is a small adaption to a basic skill that many people forget to do when they talk: listening, and then asking questions based on finding the truth in their perspective. Read more at Follow Big Think here: YouTube: Facebook: Twitter: Todd Davis: Many of my discussions are centered around someone who has a real issue or bone to pick with someone else. And I’ll listen and I’ll listen and I’ll listen because a lot of times people just want to feel understood. But then when they’re finished feeling understood they feel like they’ve had a shoulder to cry on. I will always ask the question, “I wonder why Jim would have said that? Or I wonder why Gail feels that way?” And the person will usually say something like, “Well I have no idea, I’m not Jim.” And I’ll say, “Well no, I understand that. But if I think about Jim I wonder what motivates him?” And if I can start a discussion like that more often than not people will say “Well, you know, he was pretty depressed over that issue last year or she got passed over for that promotion so maybe she’s still feeling defensive about that.” And it’s my way of not manipulation at all but helping someone gently but directly start to see things from another’s perspective. And that leads into helping them try to understand what someone’s intent is. And when we can get that type of a conversation going... it’s not always easy... but it becomes easier to start to assume maybe that everyone doesn’t have it out for you or bad intent. But in general people have good intent. When people have emotions that are high – whether they’re high because they’re frustrated or whether they’re high because they’re happy – first and foremost they just want to be understood. And we listen, through what the late Dr. Stephen R. Covey used to say, we listen through this autobiographical lens. And then we have this autobiographical response. So we listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. But the most effective people and therefore the most successful influential people they listen with the intent to understand. So reflective listening, and this is nothing new but boy it’s new to practice it because everybody reads about it, hears about it and yet I see them not model it. And I’ll tell you modeling it is magic. When someone says to me, “Gosh, I can’t believe that they put that policy out. I’m so frustrated with this thing and blah, blah, blah, blah.” I will listen, listen, listen and all I will say and it’s not manipulative, it’s just because I want to understand I’ll say, “It sounds like you’re pretty frustrated with the policy.” “Well yeah, I am because…” and then they’ll go on for five minutes or 20 more minutes. And they’ll finish that and I’ll just comment, “So it seems like it’s really got you considering maybe a change in your career.” I’m making this up. But you do reflective listening, take the time to do it you will start to get to the heart of the real issue. And 90 percent of the time it’s not in this case the policy. It’s something way underneath. And all I had to do was listen and reflect back to the person what I’m hearing them say and what I’m thinking they’re feeling.

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Exposing Liberal Hypocrisy and Conservative Close-Mindedness | Van Jones

The amount of political disagreement in the nation is matched only by righteous indignation. But in order to disagree without disrespecting each other, we need to look hard at our own positions, and Van Jones does just that. Exposing liberal hypocrisy on issues like economic self-interest and inclusion, Jones bravely crosses political lines that have come to define our comfort zones. Conservatives, too, need to look closely at where their party has departed from its traditional focus on family, faith, and work ethic. Disagreement is essential in a democracy, but disrespect is tearing at our social fabric. Van's latest book is Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together. Read more at Follow Big Think here: YouTube: Facebook: Twitter: Transcript: I think liberals have a very hard time understanding their role in creating the market for Trump. I think we have a view of ourselves that has a bunch of blind spots in it in terms of how we’re showing up. I’ve gone all across the country, I got a chance to go to West Virginia, the red parts of Indiana and Michigan, even the red counties in California, I’ve gone to the border, and it gives you the chance to really kind of see the world from the other side as a liberal, as a progressive. One of the things that I think that we don't understand and that we have a hard time getting our heads wrapped around is we often commit the same mistakes with people in the red states that we accuse conservatives of committing. For instance, if you only listen to NPR, only watch CNN and only read the New York Times and say “I know what’s happening,” then you’re committing the same kind of mistake as somebody who only reads the Wall Street Journal, watches FOXNews and listens to Rush Limbaugh on the radio—which is not to say that CNN is as far left as FOX is to the right, it’s to say that there’s a particular set of assumptions that you’re being reinforced in, a particular set of ideas. And so you might assume then that any rational person would be outraged by what you’re outraged by and even have the same information that you have, but that’s just not true. We can sometimes come across in ways that are offensive to people who are in the red states and who are conservative, which shocks a lot of liberals. “I’m not offensive and I’m not offending anybody; I’m liberal I’m up for everybody! I believe in diversity! I believe in inclusion!” But it sounds the same way. A lot of times you challenge conservatives and say, “Listen sometimes you guys sound really racist.” “Oh my God I’m not – I don’t have a racist bone in my body. You’re nuts! Quit playing the race card on me!” It’s the same basic thing. Listen to what folks are saying. I listen to liberals, they say—they basically treat red states the same way that colonizers treat Third World countries. “These are ignorant backwaters in the south, full of unwashed, uneducated dumb people, and what we need to do is convert them to our NPR religion and forcefeed them some kale so they can actually rise to our level! And once they rise to our level then they’ll be smart enough to quit falling for dumb tricks from their republican masters.” And I’m like, do you hear yourself? Do you hear how you sound?! Nobody should follow anybody who thinks that way about them. Just like most people of color will never follow a lot of the Republican Party as it talks about people today “because you don’t have any respect; you don’t understand what you’re talking about; you’re looking down on us and then telling us that ‘we’re dumb if we don’t vote for you.’” No, we’re dumb if we vote for you, and it’s the same way in reverse. Let me tell you the kind of stuff liberal say all the time, that liberals think it's perfectly reasonable, perfectly rational, and it’s offensive and wrong. Liberals say about conservatives, especially low-income white conservatives who vote for republicans, that these people are “voting against their own economic self-interest and it's because they're not well educated, if they really understood what was going on they would never vote for these people because they’re voting against their economic self-interest, which is stupid.” Okay, let's take that apart. Do you know the white people who consistently vote against their own economic self-interest? I'll tell you who: rich, white liberals who vote for tax increases to pay for programs their kids will never use! They’re voting against their economic self-interest!

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