Evidence has long shown that getting a group of people to think individually about solutions, and then combining their ideas, can be more productive than getting them to think as a group. Some people are afraid of introducing radical ideas in front of a group and don’t speak up; in other cases, the group is either too small or too big to be effective.

But according to a recently published study, the real problem may be that participants’ [sic] get stuck on each others’ ideas. On Monday, the British Psychological Society highlighted a recent study by Nicholas Kohn and Steven Smith, two researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington and Texas A&M; University. [...] As expected, the “nominal” groups, or those made up of individual ideas that were later pulled together, outperformed the real chat groups, both with the number of ideas and the diversity of them.

Why do large companies more successfully acquire instead of innovate? They certainly have the talent, the money and the existing market share to launch startups with ease, yet they don't do it very well. What's clearly missing is something in their DNA, but also something in the numbers. As big companies look at growing internally or via a shopping spree, it's important to consider the underlying motivations and math.

After a brief, failed experiment paying me to do chores, my dad tried something really neat. It clearly took a bit of legwork, but maybe there are some transferrable lessons for parents who want to lay an entrepreneurial foundation.

He gave me a vending machine.

He rented the machine, found a location in a local workshop, and installed it. And then he told me two things.

1. That this would be the last time I was given allowance.

2. And that if I wanted to have any pocketmoney next week, I’d better spend this week’s on some inventory.

The Isolator is a bizarre helmet invented in 1925 that encourages focus and concentration by rendering the wearer deaf, piping them full of oxygen, and limiting their vision to a tiny horizontal slit. The Isolator was invented by Hugo Gernsback, editor of Science and Invention magazine, member of “The American Physical Society,” and one of the pioneers of science fiction.

Oh man! As a TEDx organizer and as a general fan, I've been waiting for this question all my life.

The illusion of asymmetric insight makes it seem as though you know everyone else far better than they know you, and not only that, but you know them better than they know themselves. You believe the same thing about groups of which you are a member. As a whole, your group understands outsiders better than outsiders understand your group, and you understand the group better than its members know the group to which they belong.


In a political debate you feel like the other side just doesn’t get your point of view, and if they could only see things with your clarity, they would understand and fall naturally in line with what you believe. They must not understand, because if they did they wouldn’t think the things they think. By contrast, you believe you totally get their point of view and you reject it. You see it in all its detail and understand it for what it is – stupid.

Recently I came upon a fascinating study by Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire. Wiseman surveyed a number of people and, through a series of questionnaires and interviews, determined which of them considered themselves lucky—or unlucky. He then performed an intriguing experiment: He gave both the “lucky” and the “unlucky” people a newspaper and asked them to look through it and tell him how many photographs were inside. He found that on average the unlucky people took two minutes to count all the photographs, whereas the lucky ones determined the number in a few seconds.

How could the “lucky” people do this? Because they found a message on the second page that read, “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” So why didn’t the unlucky people see it? Because they were so intent on counting all the photographs that they missed the message.

Going to Mars would stretch human technology and ingenuity to its outer limits, but if humanity is ever to spread across the Solar System, it’s a diabolical challenge we will need to overcome.

Today, the X PRIZE Foundation announced the official roster of 29 registered teams competing for the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, an unprecedented competition to send a robot to the Moon that travels at least 500 meters and transmit video, images, and data back to the Earth. This group of teams signifies this new era of exploration’s diverse and participatory nature as it includes a huge variety of groups ranging from non-profits to university consortia to billion dollar businesses representing 17 nations on four continents. The global competition, the largest in history, was announced in September 2007, with a winner projected by 2015.

Srivastava realized that the same logic could be applied to the lottery. The apparent randomness of the scratch ticket was just a facade, a mathematical lie. And this meant that the lottery system might actually be solvable, just like those mining samples. “At the time, I had no intention of cracking the tickets,” he says. He was just curious about the algorithm that produced the numbers. Walking back from the gas station with the chips and coffee he’d bought with his winnings, he turned the problem over in his mind. By the time he reached the office, he was confident that he knew how the software might work, how it could precisely control the number of winners while still appearing random. “It wasn’t that hard,” Srivastava says. “I do the same kind of math all day long.”

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