What is a Big Idea?

One of the things that I’ve learned in writing Tactical Philanthropy is that when it comes to the many online mini projects I launch (podcasts, FORGE, the One Post Challenge) the key is to “launch early, launch often and fail fast”. Some projects take off and take on a life of their own. Other projects die on the vine.

One of the recent projects I’m most excited about is Exploring the Edge, a guest author platform designed to “profile ideas from around the social sector that push boundaries, challenge conventional wisdom and otherwise explore the edge between what is and what might be.”

But so far the series is not taking off.

The first hitch came when the original series name “Audacious Ideas” turned out to be in use by someone else. With the re-launch, I recruited an all-star  review committee so that I could play the role of coach to the potential guest authors instead of having to play judge.

But so far we have yet to publish a post under the new format.

Here’s the issue. What I and the review committee are looking for are guest posts that propose a Big Idea (hence the original name of the series: Audacious Ideas). We are looking for posts that identify some sort of problem or opportunity and lay out a Big Idea for fixing the problem or capitalizing on the opportunity.

To date, we’ve gotten entries that make compelling points about issues facing our field or opportunities that need to be more fully recognized. We’ve also gotten some entries that make the case for a solution, but do not clear the Big Idea hurdle.

Since the review committee is ultimately responsible for approving publication of entries to Exploring the Edge, I asked them to offer some clarity on what they are looking for.

First and foremost, entries to Exploring the Edge should make the case for a Big Idea. The Big Idea should essentially be a solution for fixing a problem or capitalizing on an opportunity.

So what is a Big Idea? It isn’t just a cool statement, it isn’t just a battle cry, it isn’t just a solid argument.

A Big Idea idea forces the reader to question their assumptions. It often is either blindingly obvious (in retrospect) and triggers the reader to think “why didn’t I think of that?” or it is dismissed out of hand as being too bizarre.

Truthfully, the concept of a Big Idea is somewhat elusive. It is one of those things that people feel like they “know it when they see it” but have a hard time defining. So I thought I’d ask you what you think a Big Idea is.

How do you define, describe or recognize a Big Idea?

Provide your answer via a comment to this post or via a tweet using the hashtag #BigIdea.

For those of you who want to submit an entry to Exploring the Edge, please email me a one paragraph summary of your Big Idea. Identify the problem or opportunity and a short summary of the Big Idea. Then I’ll work with you to try to get your concept past the review committee and published on Tactical Philanthropy.