In­no­va­tion in Am­s­ter­dam

The Dutch cap­i­tal is plac­ing “beta” think­ing at the heart of its cut­tingedge de­vel­op­ment

Business Traveler (USA) - - INSIDE - By Rose Dykins

The Dutch cap­i­tal is plac­ing “beta” think­ing at the heart of its cut­ting-edge de­vel­op­ment

It’s a Wed­nes­day lunchtime, and rather than sit­ting hunched over my key­board eat­ing a wilted sand­wich, I’m in a slightly dif­fer­ent work­ing en­vi­ron­ment. At THNK Academy in Am­s­ter­dam’s Wester­gas­fab­riek Cul­ture Park, staff, man­agers and guests are all mak­ing food to­gether at a long ta­ble in the cen­ter of an all-white stu­dio, chat­ting as they pass around the hum­mus. Rem­i­nis­cent of the 1999 makeover Steve Jobs gave Pixar’s of­fices to boost in­ter­ac­tion, this seems like a fit­ting ar­range­ment for a so­cial en­ter­prise that pro­motes cre­ative think­ing and lead­er­ship.

Is in­no­va­tion some­thing that can be taught? THNK Academy be­lieves it can be fos­tered and har­nessed by those with cu­ri­ous mind­sets, pur­pose and pas­sion. Although it is pri­vately funded, THNK was launched as part of a gov­ern­ment pro­gram to make the Dutch cap­i­tal’s cre­ative sec­tor more cut­ting-edge.

Twice a year, THNK in­vites 500 en­trepreneurs and “so­cial change lead­ers” from across the globe to take part in its pro­gram. This num­ber is then whit­tled down to about 40 par­tic­i­pants based on the strength of their pro­posed plans for their busi­ness. The av­er­age age of suc­cess­ful par­tic­i­pants is 40, and they typ­i­cally have about eight years ex­pe­ri­ence in their field.

“The pro­gram’s cen­tral prom­ise is that we will sup­port their growth plan,” says Menno van Dijk, co-founder and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of THNK. “We don’t in­vest any money; we give them lead­er­ship coach­ing, and we ce­ment them as a group so that they start sup­port­ing each other. As part of each pro­gram, we run a chal­lenge with a topic that’s rel­e­vant to so­ci­ety, and we in­vite ex­ter­nal part­ners to work with us and come up with new en­ter­prise con­cepts.”

Pre­vi­ous chal­lenge themes have in­cluded “Am­s­ter­dam as a sus­tain­able des­ti­na­tion” with KLM as a part­ner – this con­trib­uted to 167 elec­tric taxis be­ing in­au­gu­rated at Am­s­ter­dam Schiphol air­port last year. Another THNK chal­lenge ad­dressed the is­sue of empty of­fices in the cap­i­tal – 20 per­cent of them were dis­used at the time, giv­ing the im­pres­sion of so­cial dis­or­der and ne­glect. The re­sult was the launch of of­fice space re­newal com­pany CTR+N. THNK also re­cently opened academies in

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