The Archival Collection of Ivan Henry Scheier
What Is A Think Tank?
(training handout summaries)
Created for the use of participants in the 1992 VOLUNTAS Institute for Consultants and Trainers. Sponsored by the Center for Creative Community, P. O. Box 2427, Santa Fe, NM 87504.
A think tank is a process for looking long and deeply at underlying assumptions and values (in volunteerism, for our interest here) and feelings.
Beyond “how” to “why”
Beyond “what” to “what if”
Concentration is on ‘why’ rather than ‘how to’ questions. (There were as estimated 3,000 workshops on volunteerism last year; we would be very surprised if there were more than a dozen think tanks over the same time period.) Think tanks appear to have very special, perhaps even unique value for us in the following ways:
to challenge advanced and/or restless-creative leadership for a renewal of motivation, rededication
as an antidote to hardening of the categories in volunteerism
as an especially powerful process for examining long-range issues and directions (as distinct from basics)
to focus on a organization’s main challenge at a different level from a basic workshop
Hopes – within a broad framework of volunteerism, examined via the think tank process:
to get substantial help with at least one primary challenge/issues of immediate concern to you as an individual
to contribute substantial help re at least one major challenge of concern to volunteerism in general
to learn the think tank process well enough to teach it and apply it “back home”
to contribute to a continuing evolution in understanding the potential of the think tank process
Who Is It For?
Coordinators or other leaders of volunteers
Who are visionaries explorers creative and in search of challenge
who can entertain unconventional approaches to problems
which have resisted convention solutions
who feel the big picture of volunteerism merits their commitment
who are willing to re-examine basic assumptions in volunteerism today chronic questioners within a framework of faith in volunteering the restless seeker of broader perspective
We especially seek people of a mature, self-disciplined distortion who are comfortable in sharing and completely reliable in observing confidentiality.
Almost anyone in the right situation, e.g., one which calls for renewal, re-direction, etc. Amount of experience is less important than how the person uses that experience Genius is not necessary Both sides of the brain are helpful So is patience with the problems of others: ability to function in a relatively unstructured, self-directed group; and “benign schizophrenia” re resource role.
Who Is It Not For?
People who mainly need help with the practical basics, such as how to recruit, place and train volunteers
people with such immediate program or professional problems that they have very little energy to devote to the problems of others or of volunteerism as a whole
people who assume that sheer longevity in the volunteer leadership field assures relevance of this think tank to their needs and style
People who need definite structure, rules, and objectives tend to have a lot of trouble with think tanks.
Special features of a think tank are:
Everyone is both student and teacher, both seeker and “guru”
Rules released from are more important than rules imposed. Largely self- structured group responsible for its own well-being
Group works within broad framework rather than narrowly defined topic
From there, freedom to dream, to pursue possibilities wherever they may lead
Visualization, “what if” thinking, imaging are key processes
Unanimity is not
There is deep suspicion of the “obvious”
Instead, we concentrate on getting beneath the surface to underlying assumptions, values, feelings
It’s OK to “get personal” in fact, it’s hard to remain robotic
In the above ways, the process helps prepare the ground for more effective problem solving. But, unlike more conventional problem-solving processes, we do not rush to offer “solutions” until we understand what the problem really is When and where appropriate?
Re-direction: Getting out of a rut
Clearing ground for more effective problem solving
Long range planing, visualization
A Consideration of Volunteerism: Exercises for the Creative Gadfly
An Invitation to Soar: Manual for the Think Tank Process
Joseph Franklyn McElroy
Cor[porat]e [Per]form[ance] Art[ist]
Electric Hands, Inc
Electrify your sales, Electrify your Mind