While I will be the first to acknowledge that ours is the best system of government that I know of in the world, that does not mean it does not need to be improved—especially given the enormity of the problems we face (unemployment, deficits, education, terrorism, etc.). Our two party system has become inadequate—even dysfunctional—for solving the huge problems that face the US. In many ways, our government’s current process is actually the antithesis of the best practices of Creative Problem Solving (CPS), which has been so successful in promoting innovation in the corporate world.
I happened across an article by Jolie Lee of FederalNewsRadio.com regarding a new Innovation Lab at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). It was heartening to learn that there is a segment of government embracing the principles and practices of CPS—that have been proven in the business world—to effectively define and address tough public issues. However, it seems that awareness of the Innovation Lab is low, and ironically, it’s located in the sub-basement of OPM’s headquarters. So, how do we bring the effective practices of CPS out of the basement and onto the floor of Congress?
What’s Not Working?
Political parties, like many corporations, often “silo” their problem-solving efforts, which increases the likelihood of everyone getting stuck in their own limited perspectives. For example, when a major problem (or opportunity) emerges—such as unemployment/job creation or deficit reduction—each group separately looks at the problem and gathers facts from their perspective, be it through the lens of experience, beliefs or agenda. From that limited perspective, they each “define” the problem in their own way—which may not always get to the core issue. Each party then generates a limited set of possible solutions for the problem as they have defined it from their view-point.
Once each party is entrenched in their chosen solution, they approach the other party and argue (fight) to prove they are right. They tend to listen to the other party not to understand the other perspective, but rather to defend their perspective and discredit the other party’s facts and perspective. At this point, each party goes back and selectively searches for more facts that support their position so they can continue to discredit the facts of the other party. It is not unheard of for parties to distort or even falsify facts in order to strengthen their position to sell the public on their perspective as the one right way to see and solve the problem. The result is two parties not seeing the big-picture—only a limited view entrenched in defending what are likely two sub-optimal solutions and no progress being made on the core problem at hand.
As a government and a nation, we are stuck. The solutions are less about identifying and addressing the core problem and more about supporting a party’s core agenda.
[Excerpt, click on the link to read the rest of this post.]
By John Pfeil