Category Archives: A Plan for America

Let’s work together to reunite America.

Originally posted July 7, 2015

Let’s agree that this is a mission worthy of our collective focus and best efforts.

There is rich value in our dynamic differences

Our individual and largescale best move would be to first acknowledge the feelings and disparity that exists on so many issues we are facing, and then seek new creative ways to formulate compromise concepts and action programs that can bring all of us together to effect authentic change.  If we just begin the dialogue together and quickly wind down the negativity, we can pull together toward creativity and compromise.

Creativity is one thing that has still been missing on the real issues at hand. Mostly we hear variations on ancient themes, not inspiring new ideas. Exactly the opposite of what is needed. Look at the world around us — it is full of amazing surprises in technology, lifestyles, and new ideas in every field except politics when it comes to some of the most serious societal issues that we face. The American people want creativity in public policy and in healing the serious societal riffs that still fester.

We all need to retrain ourselves to think, stripping away everything and starting from fresh sheets of paper or blank screens, reinventing anew. Let’s think the unthinkable. Pour out ideas without regard for taking credit, resolving to work together as one team, for the greater good. We have real challenges, and we must together devise the real new solutions that lie just beyond barriers of our own making. We are in need of leaders, those who will propose new, positive and healing solutions as we move forward.

There is rich value in our dynamic differences. Respect for those whose views or backgrounds differ from our own is the mother from which invention of new creative re-bonding ideas springs. Lack of such respect is an infertile ground for creativity and healing. If we open ourselves up and consider other’s perspectives, there can be real inspiration in our own creative ideas that might succeed in bringing us together. Let’s all share in the creative process and bubble up grassroots ideas for leaders to build upon.

In this spirit of America, let’s all step up to heal the rifts that divide us with ideas that can solve the challenges the human race has created for itself.

We invite you to embrace healing in your own life so that it may radiate out — as from pebbles rippling in a vast pond.

My Best to All!

Bill

Here is my latest post at my media blog, “In Terms of ROI“ at MediaVillage.com under MediaBizBloggers .

Originally posted 2015-07-07 11:52:54. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The Spirit of America: A Dream

Original post August 14, 2014

I am seemingly on my back looking up. There are people all around me looking down at me. Are they doctors and nurses? Am I on an operating table? Am I all right?

They are talking to each other and I am trying to make out what they are saying. I’m also trying to form a clearer picture.

I can see what looks like clouds in the sky above their heads. Are we outside? Wait — are those clouds — or are they starclouds — clouds of stars in the night?

“The baby’s all right,” I hear a woman’s voice say. Suddenly I can see them — George Washington — Thomas Jefferson — Ben Franklin — Abigail Adams — Abe Lincoln… what is Abe doing there, part of me asks but I am too out of it and don’t understand what the problem is

The Founders — and Abe — looking down at me or at us, the baby they created — seem happy, not concerned, like they are playing a game — perhaps it is like a board game to them, which is why they are looking down as if at a table — perhaps a map is spread upon that table — from their perspective — a map on a board game?

Now they are actors and actresses after a show — talking, joking, softly laughing — still up there and me down here looking up — I see them taking off their makeup — underneath their “real” faces are being revealed. It’s hard for me to see — I see Abe Lincoln taking off his makeup but he doesn’t look that much different underneath, yet I know right away somehow that he is Abraham — the original Abraham.

What is the meaning, I wonder. Now I know I am dreaming — I stretch out my mind in their direction — up — the picture gets more diffuse but I am picking up words, meanings, intentions.

“We thought up checks and balances,” a male voice says, “we were so clever and creative — inspired —”

“It still went to central power, again, every time. It always goes there. It has to go there.”

“Why?”

“Physical superiority. Organized and armed groups will always dominate individuals.”

“Even if the organized and armed groups are us?”

“Yes. Even if they mean well.”

“What happens to individuals then? And the freedom of the individual? Isn’t that the whole point? Are we wasting our time?”

“Might as well. It goes on forever anyway.”

“I see the next move,” Washington says and I can see them again crowding him to see what he is doing on the board. “Let’s see if this does it — early 1990s —”

I get it that he is doing something that will result in a military weapons system being converted into a public utility — apparently intended to change the course of history on the planet — to somehow be an ultimate check and balance to allow the individual to stand up to the whole on an equal footing of respect, dignity, and freedom.

The ancient alarm goes off, taking me out of the dream straight into the usual reaction of seeing how quickly I can make the horrible klaxon stop. I am still half asleep but the dream is gone — I am remembering traces of it, fast fading. A red cardinal is on the railing of the upstairs side deck looking in at me, cocking his head inquisitively. I float downstairs to make coffee and while it is brewing I escape the din of bean grinding and go to my office to check in on my Internet emails.

The Internet. In the early 80s, consulting for the U.S. military on human effectiveness, I was invited to be on the ring, as it was called. The ring was Darpanet, brainchild of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Not so much a weapons system as a military communication, command and control system, although even then the uses for computer warfare were well understood. Darpanet would become the Internet. Tim Berners-Lee (a Brit) would make it the Internet we recognize today by inventing the World Wide Web. In the early 90s at the first meeting of W3C, Tim’s WWW Consortium, I was the one person invited from the ad industry, and promptly soiled the rug with my idea of anonymized privacy-protected ID numbers for each user and device to make targeting and measurement easier for advertisers. By the end of the meeting I was forgiven although it would take years to convince the majority that advertising had a place on the Web. Now Google, Apple, and Microsoft all are working on their own versions of what I proposed that day.

Nor is the Internet yet a public utility. Its status is still unique and not in an existing pigeonhole, hence the concerns over the erosion of net neutrality — in other words, not making equal speed available on the Internet to all users (pending their ability to afford highspeed service). Conferring public utility status officially, even if country by country, would protect net neutrality. Maybe someday someone will write a Bill Of Rights in which Internet access is a natural birthright.

Best to all,

Bill

Follow my regular media blog, In Terms of ROI at Media Village. Here is the link to my latest post.

 

Originally posted 2014-08-14 11:49:01. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

U.S. Shutdown and Showing the World What We Are Made Of

Volume 3, Issue 34

Although there have been 17 shutdowns since 1977, this is only the second time in our history that Congress has threatened not to raise the debt ceiling, which would result in a potential default or at least slowdown on paying U.S. debts and could occur as soon as October 17. We all know what happened when Congress came to the edge of this cliff in 2011 — Standard & Poor’s lowered the perfect AAA rating enjoyed by the U.S. since such ratings have been in place — and the stock market took a significant hit (down 20% in the following months).

And that was without going over the cliff — markets reacted to the uncertainty created by a dysfunctional Congress in bringing the U.S. up to that edge.

Yes, we need to get our fiscal house in order, but threatening the full faith and credit of the U.S. is not the way to do it.

That said, something is telling us to balance our budget now, get creative about finding ways to be more efficient. The handwriting on the wall is saying it’s finally time to stop kicking the can down the road.

Meanwhile the first manifestation of our leadership is not to get creative and solution- oriented, but to continue the finger pointing. This just wastes time during an emergency, which seems practically a treasonable offense.

Too bad Congress keeps getting paid while other Federal workers are laid off. The surest way to concentrate their minds on solutions would be to embargo their pay. However, there is no time to consider options that would take too much time to activate; it is a time to be pragmatic about what can realistically be done quickly. Making Congress more accountable is something that should be tackled long range, not now.

This is the kind of challenge that can bring out the best in people. First they have to get past the anger and blame, the natural first reactions. Those with the right stuff will get past those predictable but useless reactions the fastest. And on to solution thinking and creativity. Not just passionate speeches.

Creativity in government is almost an oxymoron. Old ideas are hauled back out again whenever any challenge arises. The print/digital newsweeklies bring to light more creative ideas about what governments can do than government leaders themselves offer, despite hardworking staffs generating some creativity that I suspect runs into walls.

Scenarios that we would like to see, things each of us can do right now to help out in this crisis:

  1. Citizens write to advise each of their representatives that they will not get another vote unless they stop the blame game and start leading with creative solutions. (My great friend and lifelong mentor Norm Hecht writes: “The founding fathers did not foresee professional politicians. [Tighter] Term limits needed, otherwise giveaways get them elected.”)
  2. Citizens set up a website where people could pledge voluntary donations to the Federal government. (Better yet, a highly-visible news or other organization takes on the job of publicizing and handling the compilation of pledges.) I will pledge an extra $2000/year over taxes until the budget is balanced. I would hope richer folk, corporations and even wealthy nonprofits would pledge donations at many higher orders of magnitude. Maybe some people from other countries would pledge too — America is still an important part of many people’s dream for what the world will be someday. If the donations equate to an average of $1000 for every person in the USA, that would be about $300 billion/year extra revenue to help the turnaround happen faster. I’m sure most of us remember the climax of the great Frank Capra classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” where the townsfolk appear out of nowhere with money that had been stuffed in their mattresses to bail out Jimmy Stewart’s hometown bank.
  3. The U.S. does not accept volunteers working without pay because of the potential liability that these people will demand later to be paid for the work they did. This policy should be changed using release forms as the mechanism to remove that liability issue. People who can’t afford to pledge money could pledge their time if they can.
  4. Since a large part of the shutdown is the Republican desire to thwart Obamacare, doctors and other health care professionals who have new health care ideas should step forward and speak up publicly, offering their recommendations for improving the existing Obama law. This could contribute to conflict resolution between the parties. Crystal Run Healthcare in Middletown NY is one example of how doctors are taking the lead in the development of accountable, data-driven, efficient and effective health care. Let’s rechannel the idea of destroying universal health care into refining the plan so that all can support it.
  5. Each department in government should be mandated to write a plan to become more efficient and deliver more for less, and to write this plan in the next week. They need to be given a target e.g. 20% saving, or whatever the economists determine is the needed reduction for year one in order to reach a balanced budget and declining debts by x date. Tax revenues need a shot in the arm too, which realistically can only come from removing tax protections enjoyed only by the people and corporations who need them the least, i.e. by adopting whatever adjustments Warren Buffett might propose. This efficiency activation has been proposed many times before and never implemented except at state and local levels as a result of Federal cuts. But the need has never been as pressing as it is now.
  6. A week later all efficiency plans and voluntary donation pledges should be summed up in the news media, and a government consensus forecast should be issued, showing the year not too far off when the U.S. government is fiscally back on track again, not increasing but paying down debt. Any departments whose plans fail to achieve the targeted percentage will be exposed to criticism, a point which should be made in advance.
  7. Efficiency will probably mean temporarily having higher unemployment as Federal jobs are cut. Plans will be needed for retraining and helping these people find jobs mostly in the private sector, except for urgent infrastructure rebuilds, which can effectively be done by any sector as demonstrated by FDR.
  8. Long-term changes emanating from such a new plan would include using the schools to better prepare individuals to discover the work at which they would excel and be happiest. This would include work-study programs with internships in the summer and at other times during the school year, with the goal of helping people find careers and jobs earlier in life that will make them happier and more successful.
  9. Other long-term implications of the new plan might be to push down many non-military government functions to more local levels where it will be easier to find creative solutions for challenges such as taking people off of Federal welfare rolls by providing local government roles and helping to connect to nongovernment jobs they can usefully perform. This stuff is much easier among neighbors. Plato believed that city-states would lose the ability to manage complexity as soon as the Polis grew to over 1000 people. The degree of built-in inefficiency of trying to manage 300 million people across so many aspects of life demands a more massively parallel approach with distributed tasks rather than centralized ones.
  10. Based on the hopeful soundness of this plan and its wide nonpartisan support, we will have showed the world — and ourselves — once again what we are made of.
  11. With our own confidence restored, we might find it the right move to increase the debt limit slightly right now, but with declining limits over time to ensure that the efficiency plan is followed.
  12. In the context of these positive changes, if it still becomes necessary to delay debt payments slightly, the world should not overreact. The idea of prioritizing certain debts over others has already been criticized by Wall Street as undermining confidence in America forever, and this is the last thing the world needs. The debt ceiling has to be raised, and the only responsible way to do that is with an efficiency plan to turn the whole situation around, a plan that requires the best minds to be heard in an organized and fast process. This should be facilitated by the highest digerati giving up sleep for the next month if necessary to collate all the ideation.

Can something like this be what actually happens?

What is the alternative?

Best to all,

Bill

P.S. I’ll be signing the latest edition of my book MIND MAGIC at the Inquiring Minds Bookstore in New Paltz, NY on Sunday, October 13 between 4 and 5 PM. Please stop by if you are in the area.

Follow my regular blog contribution at Jack Myers Media Network: In Terms of ROI. It is in the free section of the website at  Bill Harvey at MediaBizBloggers.com. 

Now Is the Time to Heal the Rift in America through Creativity in Compromise

Volume 2, Issue 30

The election is over and Obama has a second term. Both parties’ base constituencies came out to vote, signifying high motivation that their side must win, which means a lot of people feel they have lost. Some of these people are not going to agree to bring the country back together, yet that is exactly what would be best for everyone as we move forward. It is all about how we handle the situation now.

Romney won among white males and in many States. Obama won the popular vote by about three million votes. In CNN exit polls more people want to repeal Obama’s healthcare program than to keep it, possibly largely based on hearsay, some of it purposeful disinformation. The consensus pattern suggests that Obama’s actions to date should not be predictive of what he aims to do from this point forward. His best move would be to acknowledge the arguments of the other side and seek new creative ways to postulate compromise concepts and action programs that can bring both sides together — enabling processes of refinement of initial concepts, where everyone gets to add creative elements to the final solutions so that everyone can feel parentage.

Romney’s speech in accepting defeat for his bid emphasized the right notions of how America can succeed, calling upon job creators to step forward and invest in growth. That would be the right guideline for the Republican Party in the next four years, and starting instantly, a quick winding down of negativity and a pulling together toward creativity and compromise.

Creativity is in fact the one thing that has still been missing. All we have heard are variations in ancient themes. No inspiring new ideas. Exactly the opposite of what is needed. Look at the world around us — it is full of amazing surprises in technology, lifestyles, new ideas in every field except politics. The American people want creativity in public policy too. Both sides need to retrain themselves to think, stripping back to start from fresh sheets of paper, reinventing themselves anew. Think the unthinkable. Pour out ideas without regard for taking credit, without attachment to seeming smarter than the other guy. We are one team, we have real challenges, and we must together devise the real new solutions that lie just beyond a fictitious barrier of our own making.

The real leaders on both sides are the ones that will propose new, positive and healing compromises in the days ahead.

The President hinted at the value of our dynamic differences in his victory speech, saying that people around the world are fighting and dying in order to gain the right to freely discourse their differences in self-governance. True. However, our political discourse has all too often fallen to name calling, and must be re-elevated to a Socratic dialectic that progresses to a commonly supported synthesis. Respect for those whose views differ from yours is the mother from which invention of new creative re-bonding ideas spring. Lack of such respect is infertile ground for creativity. Do not be put off by the extremists on the side you consider to be the other side, listen to the moderates on the perceived other side for inspiration of your own creative ideas that might succeed in bringing us together. Let the American people share in the creative process and bubble up grassroots ideas for leaders to build upon.

In this spirit of America, we will in the very near future add THE DEMOCRACY CHANNEL to this blog, as an adjacent page on which we seek your ideas for solutions to the challenges faced by the country and the world. We will reach out to academics, think tanks, students, writers, and the general population, and we’ll publish the ideas we feel are truly creative and can potentially heal the rifts we have formed out of our genuinely differing perspectives, ideas that can solve the challenges the human race has created for itself.

Please embrace healing in your own life so that it may radiate out — as from pebbles in a vast pond.

Best to all,

Bill 

PS – Next week the Smart TV Summit is being held in San Francisco with over 150 major names registered so far. I’m speaking on a panel about the future of television and also presenting research relevant to the future. Hope some of you can make it, let’s have a drink too. Cheers, Bill

Next Time, Let’s Replace Black Box Debates — Four Out-of-the- Box Ideas

Volume 2, Issue 29

The presidential debates may give us some further insight into the individuals but they tell us nothing really about any plans the candidates and their parties might have. The possibility exists that there might exist only the most superficially developed plans. In this scientific age of computer models — intensive research potential including controlled experimentation, enhancement processes to creativity — our supreme governance techniques appear to be stuck several centuries behind. Would that our government be run the way our best companies and military think tanks are run, making use of the most in-depth plan testing, scenario generation, simulations, wargames, and psychological interventions to strip away mental and emotional blockages. Instead our highest power center still plays out like a student debate in a high school gym. Not only here but around the world.

Whether or not it was right, and regardless of what you may think of Al Gore, at least his An Inconvenient Truth presentation reached a level of comprehensiveness that is lacking in the current debates about solutions for the economy. Shouldn’t each side present its plan in writing to the public, with a full defense against the other side’s criticisms, citing evidence? In the small arena of media research companies, throughout my career I’ve always strived to present the case for my own methodologies using industry evidence and analytics of my own data. Why can’t candidates present the case for their own plans that way?

We are left with the feeling that each side’s plan for the future is a black box reflecting in the end only the original assumptions of each party, i.e. meritocracy (in its worst expressions degenerating into aristocracy) vs. democracy (in its worst expressions degenerating into communism). The only other factor being “Whom do you trust?” This is likely to be answered internally by one’s own bias along party lines, rendering the whole debate process a waste of time. The current candidates exude such reasonability that one is tempted to trust any of them, but how much of that reasonability is simply well-practiced and well-rehearsed good acting? Ultimately the decisions we make as a nation and as a world should be based on the well-defended plans we are choosing among, not merely on the personalities of the front men and front women. We need a plan.

There are still a couple of weeks left in which the candidates should really dig into the details of why they intend to do X, Y and Z. They should show what has worked before, what has not worked, how the contexts have changed since those evidentiary cases, and what their contingency plans are should results deviate from targets by specified dates. Whereas military plans cannot be exposed that way, economic plans can be. That’s Out-of-the-Box Idea #1. Not just debates, but debates after plan presentations. Yes, the plans are on the candidates’ websites, but push would be more effective than pull when the quality of our lives is at stake.

Our Plan For America presented last century focused on individualized education as the key to training Americans to be able to gain and keep jobs in which they could be fulfilled and happy, setting new records for innovation and productivity. Instead of handouts of fish we must train people to fish for themselves, as Charles Kennedy reminded me the other night. Systemic changes are automating jobs into extinction, and so we must all reinvent ourselves at personal and group levels, right up to nations and the planet as a whole. This is a long-range problem with a long-term solution — what do we do to relieve pain right now?

In the Creativity training Richard Zackon and I gave on October 3 at ARF we pointed out that wild ideas are worth throwing out there because they can lead to sounder ideas. So here are three more wild ideas that can be pummeled into realistic ones.

The private sector is the most efficient, so let’s focus on government tax changes and incentives that drive innovations in the private sector and speed up retraining of people out of work. People who have the most money (the top 0.1% or 0.01% for example*) could be offered a choice of higher taxes or the equivalent amount of money invested in the unemployed as entrepreneurs — kind of a pro-social Shark Tank. Before such a plan would start there would be intensive research into who the unemployed are, what talents and defeated aspirations they have had, either through Facebook or something like it. This web-based system would function as a dating service between out-of-work people and rich people. Rich people would help individuals rather than dole out faceless tax dollars. The business plans of the would-be entrepreneurs would be critiqued and improved by the benefactors. If not invested away the same money would simply be taxed away — again, only for the richest 0.1% or 0.01%.

Another process would be incentivizing internships on a massive scale, where the unemployed work for very little in a company where they can learn new skills and maybe get a foot in the door.

We need to consider making it mandatory in our school systems for students to learn a third language — writing computer code.

Let’s encourage the candidates to drop the rote going-through-the-ancient-motions and get on with detailed specific plans that respect our intelligence.

Best to all,

Bill

*As reported in the New Yorker:

  1. The top 0.1% received 7.8% of all U.S. income in 2009, according to the IRS;
  2.  Economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty find that:
    a. The top 1% received 93% of the gains of the 2009-2010 recovery;
    b. The top 0.01% received 37% of the gains of that recovery.

Entering the Age in Which Business and The People Are On The Same Side

Volume 2, Issue 5

I first met Bob Herbold (see www.bobherbold.com) when he was at P&G, before he went on to be COO of Microsoft where he’s credited with a fourfold increase in revenue and a sevenfold increase in EBITDA. Last week I got to reconnect with Bob by phone and as in all my conversations with him I learned a lot.

Nowadays Bob is spending half his time in the fast-developing areas of Asia such as Singapore, Indonesia, Penang and Chongqing. He’s feeling the vibrant energy of these places, where companies from the U.S. and other developed nations can ride the ebullient ballooning of commerce. He notes the intelligence of the talent pool, the effectiveness of the education systems, and the willingness to work hard that he attributes to the population not having the excess self-esteem of American workers. I’m thinking Americans don’t have to give up their self-esteem (nor their hard-won rights as workers) if they are reinspired by a crystallizing and uniting vision — this might be a way to make us show the same focused yet humble drive of these new economic engines. Bob would like to see the USA fulfill Ben Franklin’s dream of a land of people taking personal responsibility to the degree that the need for unemployment insurance and welfare payments is naturally reduced. Undoubtedly the recipients of those payments today would protest that conditions outstripped their ability to take responsibility, and what is needed are better systemic solutions empowering personal responsibility — educational/training-oriented, incentives to create jobs, methods of helping small business, and so on.

A similar idea appeared in my 1976 report A Plan For America, which recommended strategies for empowering people to become plugged in where their talents and training could contribute the most success for themselves and for the rest of society.

Bob’s ardent wish is that the US government and the press could become what he perceives as less anti-business. He points out as one example the fact that US corporations are disincentivized by high (35%) tax rates on money that has already been taxed to bring cash back from overseas into the US. He goes on to say there are only the US and seven other Western nations with similar policies — out of all of the nations — whereas countries he considers smarter in adapting to changes, such as Switzerland, allow the money back into the home country without re-taxing it above the taxes already paid in foreign countries. He cites Switzerland’s 2.5% unemployment rate as indicative of what the US could achieve by learning from policies of other countries that are adapting better to the massive shifts in the world economic order. Clearly there is a question here of whether we can help our leaders find ways to better dial tax structure decisions to maximize US job creation.

My cousin Bernie like others in my immediate family growing up, was a union man. To show for it he had a steel plate in his head, where company-hired goons hit him with truncheons. This is an early impression I had of the seemingly natural strain between business and people. Today I no longer feel there is anything natural about such an adversarial tension between business and people. We all need the US to be more economically successful. We all need there to be jobs for everyone who needs and wants and is able to work. Business and people are the same folks looked at two different ways. What can be done to eliminate ancient distrust and get the whole team humming?

We need a new way to work at solutions together, collaborating between people and business. Business saw the need for an association called ALEC* to work out solutions good for business and to pitch these solutions to legislators. Social media has shortened the time it takes for seismic events to occur in our 21st century society. A blogger discovered ALEC and didn’t like it. One corporation found itself being misquoted as daring the people to boycott its products if they didn’t like ALEC. Digital conversation reaction sentiment was negative and voluminous, and now corporations are rapidly departing ALEC.

Why not replace ALEC with a digital platform that opens up such conversations about legislative solutions, to take place between business and people on all sides of the issues, together? We need innovative solutions because mostly what we get are old ideas recycled endlessly. With all of the media exposure taking place about our problems, why shouldn’t a non-negligible percentage of it be about constructive new solution ideas, good for business owners and workers alike?

The Human Effectiveness Institute has designed a digital platform for this purpose and is seeking the right partners to make it work. We call it The Democracy Channel. Bill Rouhana, CEO of Chicken Soup for the Soul and a good friend has already joined us. Take a look at The Democracy Channel platform  and get in touch if you’d like to play a role in making this happen. It’s a good thing that business wants to help find new solutions, let’s just channel that energy into a venue where one’s customers want to help — where both sides win.

Best to all,

Bill

* For those who want to see what all the hubbub is about from a different point of view, here’s an interesting site: 
http://alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed