Archive for the ‘problem solving’ Category

Optimism in a time of Economic Gloom

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

I read an itneresting article in the Associated Press about the economic doldrums affecting the United States. There is a lot of cause for pessimism. Employment is sky high with almost 20% of real unemployment/ underemployment, people are not shopping and families are struggling. What I found really interesting was this quote:

To some economists, the United States is starting to look eerily like Japan. The Japanese economy fell into a recession in the early `90s. It has never fully returned to health, largely because of policy mistakes. The government raised taxes after declaring victory over the downturn prematurely. And U.S. economists, including current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, criticized the Japanese central bank, the Bank of Japan, for being too passive to turn the economy around.

Economists are trained to look at numbers. When I was an economics major at the University of Illinois I spent a lot of time analyzing graphs and charts. That is probably why I ended up switching over to become a theater major at New York University! I agree that sound policies do have a positive impact on the economy. However, the economists miss one difference between the North American economy and the Japanese. In both Canada and the U.S. economic success is based on innovation. It is innovation that is the key element of growth. The Japanese are very good at process improvement such as Kaizan and creating well built products (i.e. Honda). What they lack, however, is the diversity and entrepreneurial spirit that has built North America into the world’s leading economy for over 75 years. Advances in software, the internet, biomedical technology and telecom have mainly come from North America. The succes of its economy is people having new ideas and then have the freedom to implement them.

What is hurting the U.S. more than anything is regulation that stops entrepreneurship. You see it in Europe where it is very hard to start a business because of all the regulations and bureaucracy that a person has to go through to start one. Yes, many of those regulations are necessary but many are not. If we want to kickstart the economy, the best way is to streamline regulations and bureaucracy and invest in small businesses and new ideas.

Americans and Canadian have always been creative problem solvers and it is for this reason that I believe that the economic gloom we are facing is temporary and I am optimistic that our creativity will ultimately create an economic turnaround.

Politics and Leadership

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Any one looking at the current group of people who want to President have to notice that there seems to be a lack of leadership. It is even true of the current occupant of the White House. Instead of leading, he seems to be more focused on re-election and playing to his base. He says one thing but in reality is doing the opposite. It is the same a lot of times with many organizations. The best politicians do not make the best leaders. Why does it seem that there is such a shortage of leaders at the very moment in history when we need them most.

The answer is that a good politician does not make a good leader. The ‘art’ of politics is to please as many people as possible. The best way to do that is to give them ‘red meat’ or tell them what they want to hear exactly as they want to hear it. You build a base of power with a specific group of people.  The ‘art’ of leadership is to have a vision, adapt and often times do what people do not want because it is needed.  Leadership is fundamentally about actions.  Politics is about words.  It helps a good leader in many ways to be a good politician, especially the ability to communicate a message clearly and effectively to others.  However, a politican can be a hypocrite, flattering those above them who have a direct impact on their ability to ‘climb the ladder’.

The reason that I am writing this is that there seem to be a lot of politicians but no leaders running to lead the United States right now.  The same, unfortunately, can even be said of the current occupant.  Sometimes it is difficult to be a leader because you have to make decisions that are in the country or organization’s best interest and they may upset your ‘base’.  When decisions are made to get “elected” or “re-elected” because they appease a certain group/ideology and because they promote your individual self-interest, you are acting as a politician and not a leader.  It seems that that is what is happening now with the current budget crisis.  As you read the various press, it becomes clear that instead of working to solve the crisis there is a paralysis as both sides pander to their respective bases.  Leadership is often the art of compromise to solve a problem and when people are simply speaking empty rhetoric above each other rather than offering solid plans to solve a problem.

Insanity

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

The reason that behavioural interviewing is so popular is that it is predicated on the very logical belief that past performance indicates future performance.  It is the same with most performance.  We can look at the what has or has not worked in the past to make a fair determination of whether it will or will not work in the present/future.  Thus the famous quote that insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a differrent result.  That is why I found this article by Victor Davis Hanson in the National Review so interesting.  Hanson talks about President Obama’s economic policies and how he is trying to turn the clock back to the 60’s and 70’s to policies that did not work.

What I find interesting is that so many very smart people believe that centralized economic planning can work.  It has never, in the history of mankind, done anything but create poverty and war.  The problem is that mankind and our economy is so fluid that nobody can ‘control’ it.  The reason that some people have is their own hubris and ‘false ego’.  They think they are smarter and/or want more power that they want to control everything.  These leaders often end up creating their own demise as we see time and time again.

The problem with ideology is that people hold onto beliefs no matter what the evidence is.  It is the same for people on the ‘other’ side of the political spectrum.  For instance, the idea that government should not do anything.  This extends to healthcare.  There are some things that should be provided by government.  The facts, for instance, on healthcare in systems that are government funded (i.e. Canada) versus fully private (i.e. U.S.).  The facts speak for themselves.  Canadians spent less per capita for healthcare than Americans do.  The infant mortality rate in Canada is significantly lower than the U.S. and the average lifespan in the population is higher.  Yes, there are wait times for ‘non emergency’ services (i.e. MRIs), but overall it does work better.

As I write in Flexible Thinker, the problems we have to overcome are the ones we ourselves control (i.e. preconceived ideas, false ego, etc.).  Can the Canadian healthcare system be improved by some type of competition?  Yes.  However, when we shut ourselves off to looking for solutions that work (and have worked) because of ideology, we become the problem and not the solution.

The Poorest Community in America Challenges Preconceived Ideas

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Very interesting article in the New York Times about the poorest community in America. It is not in the South or even the Appalacias. It is in New York state. The community, Kiryas Joel, actually has one of the lowest crime rates in the U.S. The thing I find interesting about this article is that it fundamentally challenges a lot of myths about poverty, crime and happiness. Does crime come from poverty or lack of community? Many researchers have found that what is more important for children is to have both parents in their lives, belonging to a community and not having the lastest tech gadget from Nintendo/Apple/fill in the blank. Do our own preconcieved ideas stop us from fighting the real war on poverty and crime? Food for thought.