In the old days, some 20-30 years ago, a good leader was expected to be able, usually with some support, to see the big picture, imagine most of the possibilities and consider their respective pros and cons. Today, with a world that is more connected, more dynamic and more demanding, this is almost impossible. Therefore, in recent years there is an increased use of think tanks, sounding boards and co-management practices. It is becoming just too much for anyone to handle so much information, and to consider so many variables and possible consequences on their own.

There is, therefore, a strong need to learn and acquire methods and tools that help managers think together, in effective teams.

Historically, Think Tanks were established as institutes, corporations, or groups organized for interdisciplinary research with the objective of providing advice on a diverse range of policy issues and products through the use of specialized knowledge and the activation of networks. They were policy, ideology and strategy focused and used to perceive themselves as serving the public interest. Nowadays, Think Tanks are a synonym for an ad-hoc thinking team tasked with addressing open questions or strategies, and often act as advisory boards. In recent years we see many organizations create Think Tanks to help leadership see a bigger picture and consider additional potential directions and alternatives.

With the rise in popularity of thinking teams, one would have expected a growing number of tools and platforms to support these specific needs, and yet, although we see an increase in the number and variety of collaboration platforms and software, a search for tools, methods and approaches designed to assist with managing the actual thinking, reveals that there are surprisingly few offerings. Most models focus on ‘managing the room’, i.e. facilitating discussions and making sure they are tight and efficient. Several months of experimentation with some of these models taught us that, although they do make the work process easier to manage, there was no significant increase in the quality of the outcomes.

What was missing, apparently, were elements that can improve the thinking process, and through that, the depth, quality and uniqueness of the results.

Through this experimentation, during the past three years, we collected and evaluated dozens of tools and processes. The goal was to not only identify the best tools for the job, but also enable an accelerated but gentle learning curve. We aimed to create a kit that would be easy to use, containing tools and methods that complement each other.

At the end of 2019, in a discussion with one of our clients, an innovation manager for a division in a large international corporation, we conceived the idea of creating and trying out a new model, with the excellent men and women of her division as participants and experimenters. This client had worked with us closely in the prior 6~ years, on many projects and assignments around innovation and future-facing-dilemmas and served as my (best) partner-in-crime for configuring and experimenting this new model. In the three years preceding the project, we had worked together on similar topics, so we were also fortunate to be able to assess and compare results between the use of the new model and the outcomes from previous years.


We devised the framework for the program, and with the blessing of their management team, our program was launched. Note that this is unique: that a management team, with eyes on the future and open minds, embraced the program and gave us a green light to be the first (in the world, as far as we know!) to create, learn and apply a method for people to think with others effectively.

It was important for us that the model comply with the following criteria:

  1. Self-activation – a kit that allows the team to manage itself, without need of external guidance
  2. Very short learning curve – The learning process for using the kit must be short (2-3 hours max.) even for team members who do not have prior knowledge or previous experience.
  3. Use a combination of tested tools and methodologies whose efficacy has been proven over the years and are in the public domain.
  4. Efficiency – on the one hand, a variety of tools that meet most needs, and on the other hand, stay loyal to the less-is-more principle. It was easy and tempting to keep adding tools, but the decision was to stay lean and thin and adhere to the optimal and necessary minimum.
  5. Cross-Media – the model could be used in both the physical and the virtual worlds.

After identifying the problems that a Think Tank might encounter, and determining the design principles, we began clarifying needs and characterizing possible solutions.

Our main design principles for the Think Tank kit, which we dubbed the “Operating System” should were that it should:

  • Assist in the process of setting up the teams and in recruiting participants.
  • Train participants to use tools and methods that will have a positive effect on both performance and ways of thinking.
  • Address the diversity and variety of thinking tendencies and characteristics of team members.
  • Provide tools for reflection and meta-cognition.
  • Refer to the thought-process itself and methodologically create answers to open-ended questions.
  • Address operational and logistical aspects of the work process, such as time management and knowledge sharing, as well as supply various formats for collecting and producing results and outcomes.
  • Assist in collecting insights and improving the work with the model itself.

The results were impressive: 15(!) Think Tanks invested their time and brainpower to raise important questions regarding the foreseeable future, and, using thinking processes and design tools, presented their answers and ideas. Our starting point, in this specific case, was a bank of 80+ open questions; some of the questions were presented by the management team, and many others were submitted by employees, when asked to share questions that interest them as they contemplate the next 5-15 years. Once the Think Tanks started to work, they invested very little time to learn the tools and choose their path. Next, each team selected the questions from the ‘Question Bank’ that they wanted to work on.  To do that, we used a concept called ”Fertile Questions“ – a term coined by Prof. Yoram Harpaz, in his remarkable work on Communities of Thinking. Prof. Harpaz helped us formalize a simple process so that the teams were able to create meaningful questions and develop them into concepts and applications.

From an organizational perspective, using this “operating system” yielded the following:

  • Functional teams of experts conducted focused and effective discussions
  • New ideas, that venture beyond current thinking, were created
  • Reports, testimonials, and white papers with practical implications were produced
  • A culture of focused, effective, and efficient structured discussions was established

Yet another set of outcomes was on the individual level – from formal feedback, comments, and discussions, we learned that most participants had a strong and meaningful experience. More specifically, we collected these insights:

  • The work process was easy to understand and follow;
  • The ‘All Included’ kit saved time and efforts gathering tools and knowledge;
  • A strong sense of ownership and team accountability was generated;
  • Higher levels of depth and engagement in collecting, processing and converging data and concepts;
  • Less friction and more flowing team dynamics;
  • More alignment and pride in the teams’ results.

Personally, I am honored and grateful for the opportunity to share the Think Tanks’ story and modus operandi.

I think that this entitles us to announce that we have successfully developed the world’s first Think-Tanks Operating System.