The essence of an idea: New Amsterdam school illustrates that good ideas are just ideas without work
Amsterdam has created a school specifically for people who can make really cool things. Earlier this year, Lava, an Amsterdam-based design agency, opened THNK: The Amsterdam School of Creative Leadership. The public/private-funded institution has an inaugural class of 30, who attend classes in a facility in Amsterdam and also online.
But this inaugural class is not a typical batch of freshmen. It’s an invite-only school for creative leaders and entrepreneurs from around the world, paying about $52,000 for the 18-month program. They hail from countries like the U.S., Europe, South Africa, India and China.
The first six months of the program are devoted to intensive weeklong seminars, and then participants work with faculty on the project of their choice. While working with the school, the participants also work with local entrepreneurs and artists to complete projects.
THNK is “a slick business development project that simultaneously doubles as soft diplomacy,” according to a March 27 report from Fast Company, a magazine focusing on business, technology and design. The Dutch government, the City of Amsterdam, the Province of North Holland, Vodafone, McKinsey & Company, KLM Airlines, and other public and private institutions provide funding for THNK.
Those interested in the program can apply to apply online at thnk.com/apply. Potential applicants provide a few details about themselves and are then contacted by THNK to provide more information. Besides things like first name, last name and email, prospective applicants are required to provide their company name and function title.
Current participants include Ben Keene, founder of Tribewanted, which aims to build sustainable communities; Gines Haro Pastor of The Guardian; and Shona McDonald of Shonaquip, which aims to help people with severe disabilities in South Africa. “The bulk of participants are what THNK’s promotional materials refer to as ‘a mixture of successful dropouts and Harvard alumni’ that includes TED, Rockefeller Foundation, and Ashoka fellowship winners,” according to the Fast Company report.
The people involved with the institution have proven track records in coming up with ideas and putting the weight behind them to make them happen. They have the skills, connections and capital to take an idea from just an idea, to something tangible or something that can have an impact.
Most people have ideas. But not everyone puts in the work. Connections and capital often matter—two things that not everybody can get easily. But skills can be attained through hard work, which can take an idea out of that little dream bubble in a person’s head and turn it into something tangible in the real world.
In his book “Outliers,” Canadian journalist, author and speaker Malcolm Gladwell explains his 10,000-hour rule: the key to success in any field is practicing the task for about 10,000 total hours. Typical college students, if they’ve found their passion, have dedicated only a fraction of time to those passions. But that should be disheartening. Something like THNK is not a dream, it’s a goal. Ideas can be more than dreams—they can be goals.
The thing that sets a goal apart from a dream—a successful entrepreneur invited to study and work in Amsterdam from a guy with an idea—is hard work.