A relevant question in light of recent events, one would assume.
I’ll try to explain.
I do not count myself as a great thinker. I’m not particularly intelligent; I would say that I’m about average. I didn’t go to top tier schools and didn’t graduate with a vast array of honors and accolades. I actually was a bright student but a relatively lazy, and most times, a very lazy one – I probably would have been diagnosed as ADHD back in the day – but in the age of stone tablets, these were just letters. I performed much better academically as I learned to focus my mind and I found subjects that intrigued me – history and philosophy were two of them.
But since I had no interest in teaching and there were no demand for philosophers, I obtained an education in business and engineering – but I never lost my affinity for history and philosophy and have read and studied everything I could get my hands on.
I may not be a robust intellect, but I am a proven problem solver. For the past 15 years, that is what companies have paid me to do – and I have made a very, very good living at it. I actually enjoy stepping in the middle of chaos and disaster and finding ways to pull order and success out of it. It requires that I use every experience that I have had, every tactic that I have learned and every strategy that I can conceive. It also has taught me to be a keen observer of people.
Being a keen observer has taught me that people rarely fail in recognizing or understanding a problem. They often do not fail in figuring out the right solution to it – but from the shop floor supervisor to the CEO, people fail all the time in implementation of the solution.
I have attended meetings with CEOs and Senior Vice-Presidents and heard them define for me exactly what the problem is with extreme clarity…and yet, there I am, talking to them about solving the problem for them.
Because most companies are operating at an “acceptable” level – they can bear the pain and the CEO either has no idea how to implement the solution or they are afraid to do it. You would probably be surprised how many times it is a fear of looking bad that stops it – at this level companies tend to de-select people for these positions rather than select them, so you screw up once and you are out – it is better to ride low and in the middle of the herd.
What good is a solution to a business (or a government or society) if it sits in a three-ring binder in a bookshelf behind the CEO’s desk? What good is it for CEO to know that that there is a problem, announce it to his employees, propose a solution and yet not do anything about it?
In my observation, this is where we are as a country.
The fact about this is that there is only about 20% of the population of the country who are paying attention at any given time – 10% on the left and 10% on the right. The other 80% are just plodding along, hoping that someone is working on the issues. In the Presidential election of 2012, only slightly over 50% of the eligible voters (40% of the total population) actually did vote – that means that roughly 93 million couldn’t be bothered to decide on their own future. In the hours after the election in 2012, I wrote:
I was thinking about this today before I read Geraghty’s piece – according the Census Bureau, in 2011 we had 311,591,917 people in the US, 23.7% of which were under 18, leaving 237,744,633 people old enough to vote, That means that roughly 50.7% of the voting age population saw fit to vote and out of those, 50.4% voted for Obama or roughly 25.6% of the voting age population decided what America would be.
One quarter of America voted for Marxism and free stuff.
One-quarter of the population determined our fate while 93 million watched from the sidelines.
We have individuals who think it is just as fine as frog’s hair to be a law-abiding citizen, work hard, pay the bills, raise a family…and go about their lives without making waves. They look at the next intrusion on liberty by our government as something that they can accept because it is such a little change or that it really doesn’t directly impact them. They react to something like the IRS/Tea party scandal as if it was as 2 cent increase in a postage stamp. I’m not gay, so why does gay marriage imposed by the government worry me? I can still feed my family, buy my 65 inch flat screen TV, surf porn on my computer and pay my monthly credit card bill, so why should a millionaire’s taxes concern me? I’ve done nothing wrong, so why should I care if the NSA is sweeping up terabyte after terabyte of data – and the law allows them to do it?
It is also true in business – seldom are there companies who experience a single, massive issue that brings them down – and when they do, it is easy to understand. Almost every time, the issues are accumulations of many problems (and often attempts to fix them) that add up over time. Because people get used to them, they usually can’t see them and resist changing because this is what they have been taught to do – a change to their routine, a move out of their comfort zone is seen as an attack on them personally.
Folks, the road to tyranny is paved by incrementalism. There isn’t likely to be one defining moment were a “progressive” president orders the military to move on a Tea Party enclave in Panama City, Florida or a drone strike on my house in Texas – but there will be thousands of small actions over time that will add up to almost that.
We have a populace that knows that something is wrong, some of them even have defined it – most haven’t, but none know how to change it – how to implement the solution.
This is why I have pushed so hard against the “should be” arguments in favor of recognizing “what is” and what we can do about it with the tools available to us. If we could have convinced just 5% of the 93 million on the sideline to vote for Romney, Obama would be giving speeches at rubber chicken dinners instead of wasting our money giving a speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Germany today.
The strongest philosophy or the greatest idea means nothing if it cannot be implemented.