The Caribbean needs ThinkTanks

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Cdr. Bud Slabbaert


by Cdr. Bud Slabbaert,

As an introduction, I could give you one of the many definitions of a ThinkTank, a Brain-Box or what Brainstorming is. I’ll spare you the futile semantics and just come to point of what is needed from my perspective. The Caribbean needs ‘Think & Do Tanks’ that are characterized by ‘Leadership of Thought’.

My vision of a ‘Think & Do Tank’ is not a committee of some kind or other. It is an interdisciplinary communication process for in-depth consideration of issues and challenges, which relevance reaches beyond individual persons, governments, businesses, operations, associations, and time frames. A ‘Think & Do Tank’ must intensively consider how a future generation of professionals, operations and authorities may handle interdisciplinary matters in an ideal manner. It will suggest a pragmatic framework to improve synergy, enhance knowledge sharing and collaboration. It will foster innovation and offer solutions. And finally…, it will actually be implemented.

Of course, the process must be handled by persons. So, who are they? Individuals who can typically develop independent thinking patterns, which is my personal definition of intelligence! New ideas are more imaginative, original and creative when “hatched” in the company of a group of people who are willing to take on the challenge of being instrumental in making significant changes. We need to find leadership for change. We are not looking for leadership in the political sense of the word. Innovation is the number one contributor to growth. How does one find new ideas, new ways; how to be innovative? Responding to change and a need to innovate requires an approach that goes beyond conventional thinking and discussion. If we continue to think and act the way we always do, we would not come up with anything new, would we? Leaders of Change usually break the rules of traditional thinking; fearlessly challenging conventional wisdom, unthinking and rethinking ideas and solutions.

The ‘Think & Do Tank’ will have a predetermined topic as starting point and from there on it is all open to the dynamics of exchanges of experiences and ideas of the participants in a climate of tolerance to different opinions. Any trick of the trade will be used to move forward from that starting point of the Tank by bringing in suggestions which will be pushed as far to the edge as possible by challenging, redefining, adapting, modifying, magnifying, minifying, substituting, rearranging, reversing, combining, infusing, refining, etc. It will result in sparking positive changes. Emphasis will be put on innovation and creativity. There is a need to have the courage to do things in a new and better way to make a difference. There will be a quest for generating benchmarks and developing new best practices.

My favorite two predetermined topics? How about reinventing Caribbean tourism that is so unique that it can outdo any other offering of tourism products anywhere else in the world. How about reinventing Caribbean economies that are healthy, flourishing, and are a showcase of a prosperous society?

The conclusions and results of the ‘Think & Do Tank’ will become benchmarks or role models after which political players or captains of the industry may remodel and improve their future operations, activities, or policies. The outcome may become a referral or focus point for other communication platforms in politics or industries locally, in the region, or even abroad. It is a movement towards a culture of action and responsibility that enables channeling entrepreneurial ideas into actions that improve the lives of people. It can also improve the quality of public policies that directly and indirectly affect the functioning of markets and therefore the possibilities of the territories in the region to develop.

An action-oriented ‘Think & Do Tank’ is a most desired process in the Caribbean. It could even become a building block in developing a knowledge industry in the region since it would allow the educational institutions to attract, retain, build and motivate local talent, develop an independent research program, invest in public outreach programs and ensure that research results inform and influence policy debates. It is a fact that Think Tanks are in a unique position to effect positive change in their societies. A ‘Think & Do Tank’ shall be conceived to make those changes actually happen.

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