THNKLab: Prototyping THNK’s challenge-based learning model

THNKLab: Prototyping THNK’s challenge-based learning model

THNK’s Creative Leadership Program is a work in progress. That's why we welcomed a group of eleven participants at De Waag in Amsterdam for a THNKLab – a prototype of our new 10-month program, to be launched in January 2012. In keeping with our core values of diverse thinking, we invited a wonderfully motley group of people from the worlds of business (Nike, KLM), clergy (English Reformed Church of Amsterdam), technology (e-office, SURF), creativity and design (Design Academy Eindhoven and Lava), international development (Oxfam Novib, Mama Cash), and social media (KBIRI).

Agents of change

The day began with a talk by Stefano Marzano, Chief Design Officer of Philips Design. “Creative leadership is about having your head in the clouds and your feet on the ground,” he said. “Creative leaders not only develop ideas – they also make them happen. ”Marzano challenged participants to imagine a future that does not yet exist. It’s possible if companies and organizations give high potential, creative people the space to imagine – and the support and resources to pursue their ideas. According to Marzano, companies long to imagine the future but can’t because they don’t know how to lay the foundation for the future.

The “agents of change” needed to achieve this have the right mindset, knowledge and skills, he said. They are leaders because they claim responsibility for creating imaginative ideas, encouraging passion in their peers, and convincing others to play an active role in bringing about meaningful change.

Our guests started off by working with Sietske Klooster, playing games designed to create empathy for – and illustrate – the dynamics of leadership and followership. This involved trust-building exercises and a group sculpting session, in which participants silently created a clay masterpiece based on consensus and natural group dynamics, which revealed the leadership and followership roles within the group.

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Agents of change are leaders who claim responsibility for creating imaginative ideas, encouraging passion in their peers, and convincing others to play an active role in bringing about meaningful change. Click To Tweet

The pros and cons

To get their creative juices flowing, the group heard debates about the use of cutting-edge technologies to improve communication between people. Our protagonist was Yuri van Geest, Emerging Technologies Expert at THNK. He claimed that Internet and interactive technologies have significantly improved communication and that emerging technologies (such as telepathy and DNA matching) could offer more targeted connections between people.

Debating him was Arjan Postma, Research Director at FreedomLab Future Studies. He stressed that technology provides us with a false sense of autonomy. This injects an undesireable “junky pattern” to our lives and creates more complexity which, in turn, creates a greater need for new technology. Technology, he claimed, could estrange us from our emotions and culture.

Following this, THNKLab participants broke into three groups and immersed themselves in a design session. They shared personal perspectives on communication needs and methods, and brainstormed possible solutions. To help transform ideas into physical prototypes, FabLab Amsterdam‘s Bas van Abel discussed Open Design. Two teams created physical prototypes, and all groups presented their prototypes to professionals at a collaboration center located in Lisbon, Portugal – using advanced video conferencing

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To get their creative juices flowing, THNKLab participants immersed themselves in a design session, where they created physical prototypes of their ideas.

Solutions developed during the THNKLab

Cloud Me: A simple gadget that, when clicked together, shares the owner’s personal information and common interests. Cloud Me constantly uploads personal data based on parameters set by the owners. An embedded LED provides information about a person’s emotional state. Ideal for speed dating.

Virtual Feedback System for Cross-Cultural Communication: A computer-based system designed to communicate cross-cultural and non-verbal messages – as well as latent emotions. Using multi-colored cubes, people share feedback anonymously by rotating cubes to signal AGREE (green), DISAGREE (red) and DESIRE TO INTERRUPT (yellow). Rotations are captured onscreen and provide important cues to speakers, moderators and meeting participants. VFSCCC could be particularly relevant for situations involving people from different cultures who find it challenging to question, interrupt or disagree with others.

Mastermind-Type Game for Aid Development Programs: This concept uses gaming principles to improve service provider collaboration on international aid projects. They would be required to interact a certain number of times in order to bid on projects. The system rewards closer collaboration and interaction among strategy, logistics, financing, communications and engineering providers.

To become your own agent of change, join the THNK Creative Leadership Program. Visit the program page to find out if you qualify or contact us at