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The Next Big Idea

The Next Big Idea Club / Wondery

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Think bigger. Create better. Live smarter. Ideas are coming at you every day from all directions. Where do you even start? Hosted by Rufus Griscom, and featuring Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, Adam Grant, and Daniel Pink, THE NEXT BIG IDEA brings you groundbreaking ideas with the power to change the way you see the world.
 
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From the time she was in high school, Shellye Archambeau had one dream: she wanted to run a business. Ultimately, she pulled it off, becoming one of Silicon Valley’s first Black female CEOs. But getting there was far from easy. She had to learn how to assemble a network of mentors, overcome imposter syndrome, and challenge herself in ways she could…
 
Friends aren’t just fun to hang out with and handy in a pinch. They’re also a biological necessity. Rufus talks to journalist Lydia Denworth, author of the book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond," about why friends — even the online variety — make us happier, healthier, smarter, and more success…
 
We’ve all seen the meme. Two images, side by side. On the left, a photo of Jeff Bezos circa 1998. His hair is receding, his smile geeky, his sweater bulky and brown. The caption? “I sell books.” Then, on the right, there’s Jeff in 2017. His pate is as smooth as Lex Luther’s, his biceps as bulbous as Vin Diesel’s, a satisfied look on his sunglassed …
 
Colleges, businesses, and bureaucracies have long operated on an "old power" model — rigid hierarchies that rule from the top down. But Henry Timms says that paradigm is going extinct. In his book, "New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World — and How to Make It Work for You," Timms argues there's another force emerging. It's transparen…
 
In this special episode, three writers share the hard-won wisdom they acquired running track, coaching hockey, and attending surf camp in Costa Rica. First, Olympic runner Alexi Pappas tells us what her career has taught her about self-reliance, mental health, embracing pain, and achieving her dreams. Next, John U. Bacon shares the surprising lesso…
 
Look up the term “Renaissance man” in the dictionary, and you'll probably find a photo of Antonio Damasio. He is a polyglot, an avid reader of fiction, a classical music aficionado, a student of modern philosophy, and an enthusiastic collector of art. This on top of his day job as a neuroscientist, professor, co-director of USC’s Brain and Creativi…
 
Our curators — Malcolm Gladwell, Adam Grant, Susan Cain, and Daniel Pink — recently named “The Extended Mind” by Annie Murphy Paul one of the best books of the year. In this episode, Annie returns to the Next Big Idea podcast for a spirited conversation with Adam in which she defends the fine art of fidgeting, suggests ways to improve group brainst…
 
Are you lazy? Social psychologist Devon Price doesn’t think so. In their provocative new book, “Laziness Does Not Exist,” Devon invites us to imagine a world where we stop judging other people for being lazy, stop shaming ourselves for being unproductive, and start realizing that doing less is not a moral failure. Join The Next Big Idea Club today …
 
When Katy Milkman was a newly minted professor at Wharton, she came across a statistic that stopped her cold: 40 percent of premature deaths result from personal behaviors we can change. Katy decided to do something about that, and for the next decade, she conducted groundbreaking research into the science of achieving lasting behavior change. In “…
 
In his new book, “Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters,” Steven Pinker writes: “When humans set themselves the goal of improving the welfare of their fellows … and they apply their ingenuity in institutions that pool it with others’, they occasionally succeed. When they retain the successes and take note of the failures, the…
 
What if the fates of careers, companies, even entire industries depend on nurturing crazy ideas? In “Loonshots," physicist turned biotech entrepreneur Safi Bahcall pulls back the curtain on history’s greatest scientific, technological, and entrepreneurial breakthroughs, introducing us to a cast of colorful characters with much to teach us about how…
 
The deadline is one of the most powerful tools we have for getting work done. So why are we all so afraid of it? After studying organizations that manipulate deadlines to their advantage, Christopher Cox (former chief editor of Harper's and executive editor of GQ) has figured out how to transform deadlines from something to be feared into a superpo…
 
Over the past century, the average human lifespan has doubled. That astonishing statistic is the subject of a new book and PBS series by acclaimed science writer Steven Johnson called “Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer.” In this episode, he tells Rufus about the renegades who shamed milkmen, spiked public reservoirs, and rode rocket-powe…
 
Every season, we invite the authors of the best new non-fiction to distill their books into five big ideas. Then they read those ideas aloud. We call these book bites, and our app has hundreds of them. In this special episode, we’re sharing three book bites that demystify the art and science of parenting. Journalist Melinda Wenner Moyer offers evid…
 
Cognitive neuroscientist Christian Jarrett believes your personality is not etched in stone. Instead, he says, it's made of soft clay, and with the right tools, you can sculpt it to lead a happier, healthier, more satisfying life. Join The Next Big Idea Club today at nextbigideaclub.com/podcast and get a free copy of Adam Grant's new book! Listen a…
 
Conventional wisdom tells us that real joy comes from within: from exercise or meditation, acts of service or the way we look at the world — pretty much anything except material possessions. But author/designer Ingrid Fetell Lee offers a different take in her book “Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness.” …
 
Adam Neumann, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home (eight of them, actually) and a happy (if slightly hyperactive) disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived forty years in the world with very little to distress or vex him. In the summer of 2019, he was presiding over the most valuable startup…
 
We do it 25,000 times a day, but most of us rarely give breathing a thought. Now, though, with wildfire smoke wafting from California to Maine and delta variant cases on the rise, breathing is suddenly top of mind for many of us. That’s why we wanted to revisit one of our favorite episodes, a fascinating conversation with James Nestor, author of th…
 
Do we have alcohol to thank for civilization? The answer, according to Edward Slingerland’s new book, “Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization,” is a resounding yes. Edward, who’s a professor at the University of British Columbia and self-proclaimed “philosophical hedonist,” says that far from being an evolutionary fluke,…
 
A lot of us run away from tough conversations. Anna Sale runs toward them. For nearly a decade, as the host of the podcast “Death, Sex & Money,” she has been having searching conversations about “the things we think about a lot and need to talk about more.” Now, in her new book, “Let’s Talk About Hard Things,” she blends reportage and memoir to rev…
 
Malcolm Gladwell’s extraordinary new book, “The Bomber Mafia,” tells the story of a group of pilots who met on a muggy airbase in central Alabama and hatched a plan to revolutionize warfare. This was in the 1930s, the era of the bomber, a new breed of aircraft that could supposedly drop a bomb from six miles up and land it in a pickle barrel. If yo…
 
Teddy Roosevelt once said that nothing is worth doing “unless it means effort, pain, and difficulty.” And to that bestselling author Greg McKeown says, “Baloney!” There’s no denying that hard work often leads to positive results, but it can just as easily lead to exhaustion, apathy, and burnout. In his script-flipping new book, “Effortless: Make It…
 
Have you ever lain awake at night obsessing over a conflict with a colleague or a relative or a politician you’ve never met? If you have, you were probably experiencing what journalist Amanda Ripley calls high conflict. If good conflict is the kind of friction that is serious and intense but ultimately leads somewhere useful, then high conflict is …
 
Modern life has not been easy on our brains. Average IQ scores rose steadily throughout the last century. Now they appear to be leveling off. The problem, according to neuroscientists, may be that we have reached our neurobiological limits. Our brains simply can’t work any harder. Luckily, science writer Annie Murphy Paul has a solution. In her bol…
 
Is it really so bad to be a little bit delusional? Not according to Shankar Vedantam. In his new book, “Useful Delusions: The Power and Paradox of the Self-Deceiving Brain,” he argues that we tell ourselves lies in order to live. We believe our marriages will last, even though there’s a fifty-fifty chance we’re headed for divorce. We trick ourselve…
 
In 1958, a psychologist named Frank Rosenblatt took a five-ton computer, fed it a steady diet of punch cards, and taught it how to recognize the letter “A.” He called his creation the Perceptron, and his belief in its potential was like that of a deliriously proud parent. One day, he thought, the artificial intelligence he’d built would learn to re…
 
Ownership is simple, right? Something is either yours or it isn’t. Case closed. But who owns the space behind your airplane seat, the results of the DNA you took online, the Netflix password you got from your cousin’s roommate? The jury's still out, according to law professors Michael Heller and James Salzman. That’s because ownership isn’t binary …
 
You’ve posted a photo of your vaccine card on Instagram. The CDC says it’s okay to leave your bunker. Some of your friends have expressed interest in taking off their masks, breaking the six-foot barrier, and hanging out with you. Do you remember how? Whether you’re anxious about leaving your house or impatient to trade your house slippers for blue…
 
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning and the last thing you do before bed? If you’re a modern knowledge worker, your answer is probably “check my email.” Makes sense. Your inbox is a busy place, which is why you peek at it, on average, every six minutes: constant vigilance is the only way to keep up. But all that checking c…
 
Our work consumes us. But does it have to? Anthropologist James Suzman has spent decades living in the Kalahari Desert with one of the world’s last hunter-gatherer societies, and he’s concluded that our modern attitudes about work don’t mesh with the views held by our ancestors. For 95 percent of human history, we spent the bulk of our time doing ……
 
In 2012, biochemist Jennifer Doudna and her team at Berkeley figured out how to rewrite our genetic code using a system called CRISPR. Thanks to this miraculous discovery, we now have the power to hunt down cancer cells, deflect oncoming viruses, and cure genetic diseases. But CRISPR has a dark side, morally speaking. We’ll soon have the power to g…
 
What’s for dinner? How will we answer that question in 50 years? In this thought-provoking (and occasionally hunger-inducing) conversation, science journalist Amanda Little tells Rufus that the single biggest threat posed by climate change is the collapse of our food systems. Provisions we love, like coffee and wine, are losing their flavor. And cr…
 
Whether or not we care to admit it, we all talk to ourselves. A lot. The voice in our heads yaks it up about half the time we’re awake, and it can speak at a rate of 4,000 words per minute. When it gets going like that, not everything it says is particularly helpful. We’ve all gotten stuck dwelling on the past, worrying about the future, or standin…
 
Humor is no laughing matter. It inspires innovation, strengthens relationships, disarms tension, and makes you look smart. Seriously. So why are we all afraid to be funny at work? In their new book, “Humor, Seriously,” Stanford professors Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas say the recipe for professional success and personal fulfillment is to lighte…
 
A few years ago, as he watched his young daughter try out one hobby after another, a thought crossed Tom Vanderbilt’s mind: Why do we work so hard to get our kids to learn new skills when most of us adults stopped trying new things ages ago? For Tom, that contradiction became a call to arms. In defiance of the usual objections — it’s too late! you’…
 
We’re taught that the mark of a surefire intelligence is the ability to think and learn. But in his new book, "Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know," Adam Grant says that in our turbulent world, there’s a more important skill: the ability to rethink and unlearn. By updating your opinions, checking your ego, and admitting when you’r…
 
Sure, opposable thumbs are handy. But in his brilliant new book, “This Is the Voice,” John Colapinto says the voice is our species’ greatest attribute. We rely on it to communicate and collaborate, woo our mates and protect our children, make art and win wars. John would know. A rock ‘n’ roll vocal injury changed his relationship with his instrumen…
 
If you managed to stay awake during Bio 101, then you probably think you have a basic understanding of how your brain works. Not so, says neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett. In this cerebral yet highly entertaining conversation with Next Big Idea Club curator Daniel Pink, Lisa says our brains are made for budgeting, not thinking. She debunks the m…
 
In all likelihood, some of the biggest moments in your life, like meeting your spouse or finding your job, were the result of a chance encounter or fortunate coincidence. You got lucky. But Christian Busch, who directs the global economy program at NYU, says that with the right mindset, you can regard luck not as something that happens to you but a…
 
Every day, Dr. Carl Hart goes into his laboratory at Columbia University and gets people high. That research has led him to a surprising conclusion: the predominant effects of the drugs he administers — substances like cannabis, cocaine, heroin, and meth — are positive. In this unflinching conversation about Dr. Hart’s bold new book, “Drug Use for …
 
We don’t know when the pandemic will end, but we do know this: while we’ve been stuck at home, the world has been spinning faster than ever. Name any existing trend in technology, healthcare, commerce, or education, and it’s safe to say it has advanced a decade in the last 12 months. That’s because COVID-19, according to NYU professor Scott Gallowa…
 
Neuroscientist, philosopher, podcaster, author, meditation guru, and unabashed atheist Sam Harris is one of our best-known — and most controversial — public intellectuals. In this bonus episode, he and Rufus talk about consciousness, free will, morality, and people’s stubborn insistence on being irrational. Listen ad free with Wondery+. Join Wonder…
 
You have to play with the hand you’re dealt. At least that’s what we’re always told. But is it really true? How much of what we achieve in life is the product of our pluck and guile, and how much is just dumb luck? To find out, New Yorker writer Maria Konnikova dropped everything and joined the pro poker tour. The lessons were not what she expected…
 
You may have heard about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which sees human development as a sort of a pyramid, with survival needs at the bottom, social and emotional needs in the middle, and “self-actualization” at the top. Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman thinks we can do better. Instead of striving to become our best selves, we can strive to connect…
 
Our society is built on the assumption that we’re all a broken stoplight away from reverting to our animal selves. It’s what we’ve come to call “realism.” Historian Rutger Bregman thinks that kind of realism is, well, unrealistic. And not because we can learn to be better, but because deep down, we already are. Listen ad free with Wondery+. Join Wo…
 
Birds do it, bees do it, even fishes in the seas do it. So why do we have such a hard time when people migrate from one place to another? Science writer Sonia Shah presents the evidence that migration is central to the human story -- and it just might save us from what’s coming next. Listen ad free with Wondery+. Join Wondery+ for exclusives, binge…
 
Businesses want people to buy their products. Parents want their kids to eat their vegetables. We all want to convince someone to do something. So we push and we prod – but often to no avail. Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger says there’s a better way. In this high-speed conversation with Rufus, he lays out his formula for removing barriers …
 
Since humans sharpened the first stick and lit the first fire, we have been on an innovation spree, constantly developing new tools and materials to solve our problems. But material scientist Ainissa Ramirez says innovation is a two-way street. Drawing on stories about eight key inventions, she tells Rufus how our creations can change us in surpris…
 
We knew a pandemic was coming. We knew our police were treating some of us differently than others. So why were we so unprepared for what happened? In this eye-opening conversation, Rufus and author Dan Heath dig into what it takes to root out problems at their source, both in our own lives and in the larger world. Listen ad free with Wondery+. Joi…
 
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