THNKLab offers surprising solutions

Steffie Verstappen
Article by: Steffie Verstappen
THNKLab offers surprising solutions

In merely four hours, four teams of experienced professionals and visitors to the Amsterdam PICNIC ’10 Festival worked together in the glass THNK greenhouse and came up with solutions for the systemic crisis in the current Dutch parliamentary democracy. By of this THNKLab, the Amsterdam School for Creative Leadership introduced its unique multidisciplinary design approach.


By the name of ‘Design Democracy’, the first complex challenge was confronted in a THNKLab. Participant and stand-up comedian Raoul Heertje: “I tend to brainstorm often, but it is surprising how quickly we were able to work towards solutions this afternoon. Our plan could actually be implemented immediately.” TomTom founder and entrepreneur Alexander Ribbink is equally amazed about the speed at which profound solutions were found: “I think that the power lies in the diversity of the group of participants and the profundity of the solutions. I would never have thought that we would come up with something useable. Clearly, there is a real demand for a school like THNK that approaches complex problems in this manner."


The solutions that the teams came up with share a focus on raising the level of citizen engagement with and their influence on politics. Almost all suggested solutions make use of the latest mobile phone and Internet applications. For example, a mobile phone application was suggested that uses augmented reality to allow citizens to address their daily annoyances and that visualizes local policy decisions on street level. Additionally, the application functions as a continuous political barometer for politicians.


Another example: a nation-wide Job Rotation Day is to be realized by way of an Internet-based matchmaking system that allows for people to gain more insight into complex societal problems. Another team pleaded for an Open Source political party that organizes its governance in terms of openness, equality and by embracing diversity so as to come up with sustainable solutions. Other ideas concerned a citizen hot line and a citizen democracy through Google Maps, where people can report a broken lamp post, but which is also meant to help politicians to get back in touch with their constituencies.


The THNKLab method is used by THNK to continuously improve the teaching method of the international school. THNKLab is the first prototype. Managing Director Agnes Willenborg: "What a great series of good ideas this group of people managed to come up with in such a short time span. This is the secret of THNK. Expect to be hearing from us and our unique multidisciplinary approach in the months to come.”


Amongst the participants were: Raoul Heertje (Comedy Train), Johan Hoorn (VU University), Oscar Kneppers (founder of Bright, Internet publisher), Duncan Stutterheim (ID&T/Sensation), Alexander Ribbink (TomTom, Prime Technology Ventures), Elena Simons (Wonder), Idse Grotenhuis (IDTV), René Gude (ISVW), and others that were selected from among the PICNIC visitors.


In the first-ever THNKLab, titled “Design Democracy,” participants brainstormed solutions for the systemic crisis in the current Dutch parliamentary democracy.

About THNK

THNK will open its doors in 2011 to post-graduate students from all over the world. It targets young, talented and ambitious people that are looking to improve their skills and competencies after several years of work experience. Studies show a great need for people that are able to solve complex social and economic problems in a human-centered and interdisciplinary way. THNK merges the domains of design, technology and business and offers an innovative approach to learning.

THNK is initiated by leaders from within the creative industry, business and science, in cooperation with VU and UvA universities. The initiative is being supported by the city of Amsterdam, the Amsterdam Chamber of Commerce, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Province of Noord-Holland, and the city region of Amsterdam.

To discover innovative and breakthrough solutions to today’s most pressing challenges, join the THNK Creative Leadership Program. Visit the program page to find out if you qualify or contact us at