Usha Venkatachallam: THNK solves global challenges

Article by: Usha Venkatachallam
Usha Venkatachallam: THNK solves global challenges

This article was originally published on Usha Venkatachallam's blog.



Among the second participant group of THNK's Creative Leadership program is Usha Venkatachallam. She wrote a post today about her experience thus far in her THNK journey. As an educator herself, she has a unique window open to both angles: both as a learner and an educator.  You can read her full blog post here on her experience as a Learner.


Usha has 15+ years of experience as senior technology consultant in the non-profit sector, helping organizations creatively apply internet technologies to advance their mission. As Founder & CEO of Appropriate IT, she is currently focused on building Appropriate IT Development Academy (AIDA), a learning program in India that challenges today’s youth to become socially conscious leaders of tomorrow. AIDA is a social enterprise that plans to subsidize free training for underprivileged young women with fee-based training for new employees of small & medium businesses.


About her experience she writes:


"The Learner’s Experience: THNK’s unique and incredible learning model makes me think of it is a school for solving global challenges of the future. Yesterday’s learning methodologies of reading a corporate case study or learning how someone else solved a problem will not take us too far in the new world where the fundamental framework of society itself is in a shift. Enter THNK with its thoughtful learning process:


  1. Provide the framework and methodology for finding innovative solutions to complex problems
  2. Create a stimulating environment where a diverse (by sector, geography, age, gender) group of leaders are brought together to learn and tweak this framework
  3. Challenge them with complex real-world problems
  4. Mix 1, 2, and 3 above judiciously and watch as creative leaders are born


It is this combination of #1, 2, and 3 that enriched my learning experience. For instance, on Day 1 of our first session, after our initial introduction to the THNK creation flow, we were teamed up and let loose on Westergasfabriek (WGF), THNK’s physical location (related note: WGF is a reclaimed industrial site that has now been converted into a huge park with office buildings, entertainment, and recreation facilities). We had an intriguing question to answer that day:

How might we turn the WGF area into an exciting M2M (machine 2 machine) living lab given that smart street lighting (IP-enabled) will soon be installed in the WGF area.

Through the day of learning components of the creation flow – sensing, visioning, prototyping, and scaling – we also came up with cool ideas for how the park can utilize internet of things, the next generation technology. Our team’s ideas included:


  • crowdsourced trash reporting utilizing built-in capabilities in the street lights,
  • smart lights that create visible pathways that help people find each other, and
  • street signs that automatically change language based on a user’s cell phone language setting (street light will communicate with the cell phone using either bluetooth or near field communication NFC technologies).


That was just our team. There were 12 other teams that were coming up with cool ideas such as these. And, every team also had at least one prototype. All in a day’s work.


The best part of this whole day was not the cool ideas and prototypes. It was the fact that this whole exercise was done in cooperation with WGF management whose staff provided us with data (e.g., what are smart street lights’ capabilities) and were also present throughout the day, answering questions and listening to our ideas. So, who knows, some of these ideas may actually see the light of day (pun intended! :)).


This intermix is what makes THNK unique in my opinion. This is in a way the future of education, and I am especially honored to be part of this."

Usha is one of the many inspiring leaders who participated in the THNK Creative Leadership Program.

To start your own journey to solve the world’s global challenges, join the THNK Creative Leadership Program. Visit the program page to find out if you qualify or download the program brochure.