July 7, 2017 blog

Give your business a new perspective – and added intellectual horsepower

David Landsman, executive director of Tata Limited, explains the benefits of working with think tanks to overcome business challenges

Readers of my blog posts about Tata's engagement activities will know that I like provoking surprise with the partnerships that we have developed. I hope I have, for example, explained why our relationship with Hay Festival is so fruitful.

So here's another surprise. This year, we are for the first time sponsoring Prospect Magazine's Think Tank Awards.

Prospect is one of the UK's most respected and successful current affairs magazines, but why support their work with think tanks? Most importantly, think tanks play a crucial role in modern society, particularly at a time when we are faced with so many new challenges and choices. Many of the big issues – globalisation and automation, to mention just two – may not be new, but the scale and speed of change can be daunting. Fresh ideas are essential to dealing with new challenges, and as traditional barriers are broken down, there is a greater range and diversity of voices which have to be taken into account.

Think tanks can be a wonderful source of new ideas and diverse perspectives. Some bring subject and sector knowledge, others come from a particular political background. Sometimes impartiality is the key to success, while on occasion direct links with specific interests or political positions can be equally valuable. And, when you look at government policy announcements today, often you will see the origins of new policies in work done months and years ago, quietly and patiently, by think tanks of all persuasions.

I strongly believe businesses have a great deal to gain from working with think tanks. We all need to be in close touch with the policy-making world, in government and well beyond, and it's essential that we have forums for airing ideas of importance to us. Some of the contestants for this year's awards have been focusing on issues which are certainly important to Tata, from Brexit to industrial strategy, and from the future of work to Fintech. But we also have much to gain from the broader experience of collaboration.

Two of the threats which face business are the speed of change – forcing us to keep ahead of the disrupters, while leaving us with little time to think – and the ever-present risk of groupthink, which is often harder to avoid than we think. A productive relationship with a good and challenging think tank can help us overcome both. So, thanks to the think tanks and best wishes to all the contestants for Prospect's awards.

 

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