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What lessons could the Prussian General Staff offer Indian think tank managers in the 21st century? First, that small is better. The relatively tiny size of the Staff did not detract from its respectability, once it demonstrated that it possessed expertise which no field commander had, and none could do without. […] Second, that multidisciplinary research is the key to innovation. Even as the Staff acquired in-depth expertise, it broadened its mandate to include topics that went beyond the purely military. […] The General Staff was in effect, a small but multidisciplinary think tank. […] Third, the experience of the Prussian General Staff suggests that policy advisors do their best work out of the public glare. Unlike most think tanks today, which measure policy impact based on webpage hits and media quotes, a genuinely influential research center will prepare reports for an elite audience of policymakers, not a rabble of curious onlookers. […] Lastly, the case of the Prussian General Staff goes to prove that mindset changes do not occur randomly, they are triggered by powerful reform movements that are personality-driven. Prussia was motivated to set up a professional Staff system due to the shock of its 1806 defeat and the strategic vision of high-ranking generals like Scharnhorst.

Dr Prem Mahadevan in March 2011 writing for the Vivekananda Foundation on how Indian Think-Tanks could learn from the Prussian General Staff

What lessons could the Prussian General Staff offer Indian think tank managers in the 21st century? First, that small is better. The relatively tiny size of the Staff did not detract from its respectability, once it demonstrated that it possessed expertise which no field commander had, and none could do without. […] Second, that multidisciplinary research is the key to innovation. Even as the Staff acquired in-depth expertise, it broadened its mandate to include topics that went beyond the purely military. […] The General Staff was in effect, a small but multidisciplinary think tank. […] Third, the experience of the Prussian General Staff suggests that policy advisors do their best work out of the public glare. Unlike most think tanks today, which measure policy impact based on webpage hits and media quotes, a genuinely influential research center will prepare reports for an elite audience of policymakers, not a rabble of curious onlookers. […] Lastly, the case of the Prussian General Staff goes to prove that mindset changes do not occur randomly, they are triggered by powerful reform movements that are personality-driven. Prussia was motivated to set up a professional Staff system due to the shock of its 1806 defeat and the strategic vision of high-ranking generals like Scharnhorst.

Dr Prem Mahadevan in March 2011 writing for the Vivekananda Foundation on how Indian Think-Tanks could learn from the Prussian General Staff

I have also been concerned by the fact that the up-front costs of setting up think tanks in developing countries seem to be rather high. And donors are not always willing to take risks with young researchers or small organisations. As a consequence, most funds go to the same few organisations and the popular names. This reduces the space for debate and limits the marketplace or community of ideas.

How to get around the ‘usual suspects’ problem in policy research – On Think Tanks sketches out the ‘think net’…