Adventures with Thunk!: Where the corporate folk take advice from smart blokes with tattoos

It was a large and prestigious law-firm. Our footfalls echoed in the massive glass atrium as we homed in on the lone reception desk. With me was Don Packett, MD of Thunk! who also moonlights as a stand-up comedian. Bringing up the rear was the inimitable Richard Mulholland (more wild hair and tattoos) and the adrenalin man, Trevor Mey. We had a 10:30 meeting in the boardroom. They were paying us to be there.

Side effects include seeing things differently

Let’s backtrack a bit. I met Richard at a mutual friend’s wedding a few weeks back. Rich was the only new face at a table populated with my old skate crew (another story). We got to chatting and he mentioned his companies, Missing Link and Thunk!. He’s a good storyteller and the evolution of each entity made for interesting listening (and gave me an excuse not to be embarrassing myself on the dance floor). I was particularly intrigued by Thunk’s commodity: “We sell perspective.”


We met for lunch a week later and by then I was more conversant in Thunk’s modus operandi. To paraphrase Rich and Don: smart people (or groups of people) who’ve been staring at the same problem-space for an extended period sometimes get the equivalent of writer’s block. New ideas dry up and forward progress is achingly slow. Enter a team of Thunkers: “smart mo-fo’s” (their term), completely alien to the problem have a crack at solving it in a no-holds-barred brainstorming session. To ensure that perspectives stay fresh, the Thunk team pulls in a ‘Brain Trust‘ member into the workshop: a bright spark from outside the company who is given no preparation material – literally an address and a time to pitch up. This time, that was me and I walked right into an audience with the law firm’s executive board members (wearing my Vibram’s…just to add to the Thunk! corporate counter-culture).

So, does it add value? Without a doubt, YES (we actually got an applause at the end of the session). The washing machine that is the Thunk! brainstorming session does spin out new idea’s at an impressive pace. What I found particularly valuable though is that it also creates a unique environment where members of the client team feel safe in putting out their own innovative (off-center) ideas. These ideas may well have been gagged by the staid conservatism in the corporate atmosphere but with Rich standing in front letting rip with business anecdotes interspersed with penis humor, suddenly it’s not so scary to voice an idea…with the assurance that you’re not going to be the wackiest guy in the room.

Don, Rich and I differ when it comes to whether Thunk! is able to consistently come up with the sexy solutions in all scenarios or whether they catalyze the client’s own bright sparks into coming up with the solution themselves. My training in crisis counselling biases me toward the latter approach: helping people to help themselves. The high impact ideation machine that is Thunk! doesn’t have time to tout subtleties like empowerment. They’re more likely to say: “Hell yeah, bring it on, we’ll figure it out five different ways in three hours or less”.

Brash marketing poise aside (it’s a calculated differentiator) they:

  • Have a unique product offering
  • Deliver real value in a high energy swoop of entertainment
  • Will get you thinking differently

…all nicely wrapped in cool.  Don’t take my word for it, give ’em a call and visit the lair.

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2 Responses to Adventures with Thunk!: Where the corporate folk take advice from smart blokes with tattoos

  1. Salim says:

    Interesting. Would like to know what brainstorming techniques they use?

  2. Andrew says:

    Nice post!
    You definitely cannot go wrong with Richard & Don…that’s for sure!

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