Think Tank and Collaborative Culture Explored

Is today's Think Tank culture nothing more than impressive buzz words? Jenna Van Schoor debates the collaborative culture of design and innovation

Future of Work

Is thinking in a group more effective, or have more creative ideas been conceived alone without anyone’s input? There has been considerable emphasis on the effectiveness of brainstorming in the past, a term popularised by advertising executive Alex Faickney Osborne in his book Applied Imagination. This approach relies on the fact that ideas are best shared spontaneously in a group, facilitated by a leader but largely reliant on individual input but with overall direction.

The popularity of crowdsourcing (you only need to have a quick scroll through your Facebook feed) also highlights the fact that perhaps we don’t ever do things in isolation, while we might convince ourselves otherwise. We can aim for independence but really there is too much to know and not enough time to come up with all of the ideas and solutions ourselves.

The need to team up with others to solve a problem or discuss ideas is nothing new, but Think Tank culture has become a broadly used term for a collaborative and structured way of coming up with solutions to address a variety of problems, including everything from healthcare to public policy. With the associated image of an enclosed space and focused attention on problem solving for a particular purpose, this can be applied to any industry or social issue.

As an intrinsic element of think tank culture, collaboration is well publicised in certain industries, such as art and design. However, many successful business partnerships can tend to not be as widely marketed outside of a relevant industry, unless you happen to read regularly from a variety of industry-specific media sources.With the idea of successful collaborative projects in mind, here are just a few examples of collaborative projects across different industries over the past few years, compiled by collaborative think tank Co-Society:


LEGO might be something associated with children, but the educational potential of this still very popular brand of building blocks is proving to be very valuable when it comes to scientific development. In a joint collaboration, LEGO is used to demonstrate scientific concepts such as microgravity in space, and used to develop scientific and engineering skills for NASA, so necessary to be able to further explore infinite space.

Microsoft and Toyota

In an effort to create more energy efficient vehicles, and take advantage of the technology available to interconnect different aspects of our lives, Microsoft has been working with automobile manufacturer Toyota since 2011 to create an intelligent onboard software system that manages all information systems for electric vehicles. Microsoft has also been involved in managing a cloud based service solution that ties all aspects of the business together across continents, from sales and finance to manufacturing.

Mercedes Benz and Facebook

It might not seem practical at all to be able to access facebook from your car, but a collaboration between the social media giant and Mercedes Benz telematics systems could be the next step in onboard computing and GPS technology. Although games and other very distracting activity like typing will be blocked to ensure a driver’s safety, the concept of Social Driving will help drivers to find friends and businesses using the car’s onboard information system.

airbnb and Vayable

airbnb has revolutionised the concept of travel accommodation, by providing a comfortable and affordable place to stay and local insight and support. With many airbnb hosts very keen to show their guests around personally, it makes sense that this would extend to finding local tour guides in the same way, no easier than through online tour guide platform Vayable, which offers personalised tours, often walking-based, in cities all over the world, often taking into account niche interests and specific locations.

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