Monday, April 27, 2009
© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
We frequently suggest that in tackling problems, we examine history, starting with a minimum of 5,000 years, and as far back as 13,000.
However, we’ve come to the conclusion that history alone may not always be able to help us out of jams.
Alan Greenspan recently lamented that those principles he relied on for 40 years no longer apply.
An historian once noted that we should always proceed with caution when we think that the policies of the past can be reapplied, and will generate similar results.
We might do well to consult physics, and better understand the laws of static and dynamic forces. (These are older than humankind and history.)
In order to assess or address anything within a dynamic system, one must freeze or suspend all movement or change, of as many variables as possible, or otherwise isolate the component at issue.
We also know that slight tweaks (no, not tweets) of a variable can result in dramatically different results.
Logic dictates that the larger and more complex the system, the more difficult it is to manage or affect any part of it.
As comforting as it may be psychologically, to resort to playing marbles and pick-up-sticks, it is of questionable value to return to many practices of the past.
Imagine trying to reconstruct that romance which you had with that guy or gal back in school (altered state of consciousness or not), and hope that those old moves lead to the same results.
As a nation, we can never re-create the circumstances extant when prior practices and policies were implemented and applied.
The world may have changed every year back then, but it now changes every nanosecond. We need to recognize this, and conduct ourselves accordingly.
It’s actually lazy and simplistic to merely repeat the practices of the past, even if they were successful. It requires far more energy, commitment, focus, and innovation to craft appropriate approaches to new conditions, everyday.
Sitting on the sidelines and simply watching changes occur without responding also may not be the best tactic.
To suggest that our enemies or competitors have been sitting still, or that the conditions in our country have been in suspension, is just plain science fiction.
For years, Corporate America used large, 100 year old silk-stocking firms to perform its outside legal work. The Logistician and his partners sought that same work, somewhat successfully, by offering a lower rate. They were smaller, more nimble, had lower overheard, and more importantly, hungrier.
Yet, many corporations were reluctant to make such a change. If things went awry, someone would undoubtedly question why the referring counsel did something out of the ordinary, and did not stick with the tried and tested firms.
Hollywood’s like that. It’s far easier to explain why “Men in Black 12” did not generate record box office numbers, than a new concept.
But consider this.
If you‘re surprised about a development over a span of 30 years, like the demise of our educational and industrial systems here in the U.S., you probably were asleep at the switch, and not paying close attention to changes on an annual, much less a monthly, basis.
We all have a tendency to go through repetitive motions. They’re safe, familiar, less subject to scrutiny, and require less effort.
UPS had a marketing campaign which referred to “moving at the speed of business.” Hong Kong is a 24 hour business city. Imagine what happens to others when their business communities are asleep.
It’s the nature of competition, and the nature of change.
There’s been much noise about returning to the policies of Clinton, or Reagan, or Kennedy, or FDR. Quite frankly, returning to those dated tactics, no matter which side of the ideological line they may fall, may not be particularly helpful.
Those circumstances no longer exist, and will never exist again. And that doesn’t take into consideration the efforts to revise history.
We can’t duplicate the economic variables. We certainly can not re-create the psychological and social variables.
Going forward, we need to craft new procedures, new principles, new tactics. Ones that fit our current conditions, which have never existed before.
So to all of our politicians and policy makers out there, please detach yourselves from your ideological goals and preferences, and repeating that mantra about what you think worked in the past.
Try to figure out what’s most likely to work, TODAY, going forward, based on current conditions, and those we anticipate.
The world is far flatter than we once thought.
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