"Think Tank" was a term used to describe the groups responsible for coming up with creative solutions to problems during the World War II era. Today there are non-profit groups whose sole purpose is to be a think tank, but, overall, I think our culture is losing its ability to think creatively because of standardized testing. Our education system is structured around a testing method that requires us to retain information. We are well versed in learning information, memorizing it, and regurgitating it, as opposed to actively creating solutions.
In the modern era "new" receives the most attention which leaves most of our teams exhausted from just trying to keep up. As their leader, they need you to make creative problem solving a priority. Where is there time for your team to sit down together and creatively think up solutions to problems? If you make this time happen for your team, you will move from having a team that is reactionary to a team that is proactive, creative, and solving problems. The value of having a team that functions like a think tank is huge!
What qualities does a leader need to have in order to produce a team that's a think tank?
1. Permission to fail - If everything is "make or break," than you better believe everyone on the team will be obedient soldiers so that it's the leader who eventually "breaks" and not them. Permission to strike out when up to bat creates an environment of people who will more likely hit home runs.
2. No wrong answers- If creativity has a limit than we've limited our ability to do "new." As Warren Bennis talks about in his book The Contrarian's guide to Leadership the value of thinking of everything, even way outside of the traditional way, is where great ideas come from. Bennis described this as the ability to think grey instead of black and white.
3. Seek it out - Think tank communities begin by a leader sitting his/her best people around a table. Even the best leaders on our team will wait for permission to have a seat at the at the table and share their opinion.