The Next Big Idea is a weekly series of in-depth interviews with the world’s leading thinkers. Join our host, Rufus Griscom — along with our curators, Malcolm Gladwell, Adam Grant, Susan Cain, and Daniel Pink — for conversations that might just change the way you see the world. New episodes every Thursday.
ANIMALS: They’re Smarter Than You Think
Alexandra Horowitz takes us inside the mind of a puppy. James Bridle introduces us to slime mold that can outwit the best human engineers. Justin Gregg makes the case that thinking like an animal is the key to living a good life. And Tom Mustill explains how a near-death encounter with a 30-ton whale led him to the scientists who are building Google Translate for animal languages.
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HUMOR: The Case for Navigating Life on the Precipice of a Smile
Humor is no laughing matter. It inspires innovation, strengthens relationships, disarms tension, and makes you look smart. Seriously. Stanford professors Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas say the recipe for professional success and personal fulfillment is to lighten up, pack a little levity in your briefcase, and start living your life on the precipice of a smile. In today's episode, they dig into the neuroscience of laughter, share tips for crafting the perfect joke, and help Rufus improve his comic chops.
(This episode first aired in April 2021.)
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GOOD ARGUMENTS: Adam Grant and Champion Debater Bo Seo on the Craft of Persuasion
When Bo Seo was 8 years old, his family moved from Korea to Australia. He did not speak a world of English. At school, to deflect attention from his inarticulacy, he became an agreeable wallflower. But that all changed when Bo’s fifth-grade teacher introduced him to competitive debate. Bo was hooked, and in the years to come, he’d not only win two debate world championships but also go on to coach the Australian national team as well as the Debating Union at Harvard, where he earned his undergraduate degree and is currently a law student.
Earlier this year, Bo published his first book, “Good Arguments: How Debate Teaches Us to Listen and Be Heard,” which was chosen by our curators as one of the year’s eight best works of non-fiction. In today’s episode, Bo sits down with one of those curators, Adam Grant, to share time-honored techniques for getting your point across, changing minds without hurting feelings, dealing with bullies, and knowing when to shut up.
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NEURODIVERSITY: Why No Two Brains Are Alike
There's no such thing as a "normal" brain. And according to Dr. Chantel Prat, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington, that's a very good thing indeed. In her new book, "The Neuroscience of You," Chantel tells readers how their brains got to be the way they are, and today on the show, she explains how to get the most out of the brain you've got.
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STATUS: Does Our Need for It Explain ... Everything?
“Life is a game. There’s no way to understand the human world without first understanding this. Everyone alive is playing a game whose hidden rules are built into us and that silently directs our thoughts, beliefs and actions. This game is inside us. It is us. We can’t help but play.”
So begins “The Status Game,” a new book by acclaimed writer Will Storr.
He continues: “We play for status, if only subtly, with every social interaction, every contribution we make to work, love or family life and every internet post. We play with how we dress, how we speak and what we believe. … Life is not a journey towards a perfect destination. It’s a game that never ends. And it’s the very worst of us.”
Does it have to be?
We may not be able to quit the status game, but Will says we can learn to play it better. In this episode, he explains how.
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Bittersweet: An Audio E-Course by Susan Cain
The Next Big Idea presents an audio masterclass from bestselling author Susan Cain. Drawing on her latest book, "Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole," Susan shares practical insights that you can use to bolster your creativity, deepen your connections, and find joy.
Susan Cain is the author of two New York Times #1 bestsellers, "Bittersweet" and "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking." She's also one of our curators here at the Next Big Idea Club. To learn more about her work, visit susancain.net.
If you enjoy this episode, we invite you to join our community by downloading the Next Big Idea app, where you can listen to e-courses by brilliant authors like Shankar Vedantam, Lisa Feldman Barrett, and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. Visit nextbigideaclub.com/app.
Annie Duke on Quitting
First time I listened to this podcast and its a home run. Annie’s take on the importance of quitting a job, a relationship or any other endeavor is eye opening and forces us out of our comfort zone and onto a richer life.
So timely in my case.
I am now hooked!
Thoughtful guest selection and helpful interviews
The next big idea is well curated, thoughtful, and intelligent the interviewers always make the guest shine and sound better than they would without them. And the guests are always interesting and not your typical pundit, CEO, or leader of the moment.
This is such a rich podcast!
Thank you for a fascinating and very well-crafted series of podcasts. I always come away inspired. I just listened to An American Odyssey and the interview with Dan McGrath. Just riveting, and so well done. Thank you!!