"I'm a great think tank, and here is why"?

Markus Eisele
Up to today I never thought, that anybody could and would write such a blog post. The last person would probably be me. But, things and times change. Java Champion Michael Hüttermann said, that he would love to read such a post and hopes he could learn more about people thinking of themselves that they are "think tanks". There is a slight change I did. I replaced the period with a question mark at the end of the sentence. Reason for that? Read on!

What is a Think Tank?
According to Wikipedia a
Think Tank is an organization that conducts research and engages in advocacy in areas such as social policy, political strategy, economy, science or technology issues, industrial or business policies, or military advice.
(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Think_tank)
Hey, thats a lot of stuff. Let's focus on the technology issues and stress the further definition a bit. The (not very good) Wikipedia article defines Think Tanks with their five main areas of work:
  • Seek [political] support for policies
  • Legitimize policies
  • Spaces of debate
  • Financial channels for [political parties] or [other] interest groups
  • Expert cadres of policy-makers [and politicians]

Where have you heard the word "Think Tank" latest?
I personally don't know. I guess, it was a co-worker telling me that I work for one. I was shaking my head and negated it. But looking at the points above I can now guess about two areas of my life where I am probably a small part of one. And no: This is not about making people working for one special in any kind. I strongly believe that this is simply a job like anyone else has one.

Users Groups
I'm involved with the DOAG e.V. (German Oracle User Group) but it could be any other user group out there. If Java, Oracle or even SAP. They all develop policies to successful interaction between users and manufacturer. They try to legitimize what they worked out for their users (e.g. Licensing issues) and try to give space for debates and new thoughts (e.g. through JUG meetings or their own conferences). And they are most likely the place where the best of the best share their knowledge (e.g. JUG leaders and Java Champions or even ACE Directors) and help new believers to get further with the technology. They also try to deliver the community feedback back to the manufacturer. The one thing I am not sure about is the financial aspect. I guess this is the only part, that will and should be left to the readers interpretation. I simply don't know enough about it.

My Department
The co-worker probably was right. And I am wrong. I'm working for a department called "applied technology research". What we do is to develop methodologies and policies for software development which support the company and our customers. We also try to legitimize them (even if that's not the core focus). We also try to be open to new technologies and thoughts that don't fit into daily work and projects. And we also have very few (financial space, workforce) for innovations and ideas. Last but not least we are (sometimes) the place where new line managers or industry experts are born.

Could a single person be a "Think Tank"?
According to anything we learned from the article, it is obvious that not a single person could fulfill the requirements to be one. The list of examples of Think Tanks around the world makes clear, that they are more likely involved with politics and that it is some kind of organisation which could be entitled as such. And even my personal two examples show that it's simply not possible to BE a "Think Tank". But you could be a proud part of one or even more. So .... let's finish with me, being a proud member of a few "Think Tanks". And I am happy to share what I know.

Thanks for reading!

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