Barack Obama's Cabinet Picks For innovation

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on October 27, 2008

I don’t know who will win on November 4 but if Obama becomes the next US President, here’s some advice for picking a cabinet for the 21st century.

First, forget Wall Street and choose a venture capitalist to be Treasury Secretary (yes, getting one from a West Coast Silicon Valley firm might help too). Think of getting a VC to run the Federal Reserve as well. The US needs to shift away from finance capitalism to creativity capitalism and it needs to tap talent to get it done.

So who are the best picks for a VC as Treasury Secretary? Obama’s staff can start by looking at the key VC firms in the valley—Crosspoint Venture Partners, Sequoia Capital,
Hambrecht & Quist Venture Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Accel Partners,
Burr Egan Deleage & Company, Institutional Venture Partners and Mayfield Fund. Send in your choices.

Second, create a Cabinet seat for Innovation to push an innovation agenda for the economy. We need a powerful figure to align government policy on innovation. My two choices here are David Kelley, founder of IDEO and the D-School at Stanford and, of course, Steve Jobs. Since they are close friends, choosing one gets the nation two brilliant minds who know how innovation works—and how to get it done to maximize growth. Innovation is about more than technology and science (Apple’s R&D budget is among the lowest of the top “tech” companies). It’s a methodology that increasingly is based on collaborative networks and ecosystems that are global. Innovation is as much about sociology and anthropology as it is about technology. Kelley and Jobs understand that.

Third, Obama’s people should go outside the conventional pack of economists to pick the economics adviser to the President. The President needs a person who understands the new field of innovation economics and will push for policies that enhance creativity, design and innovation. Of course, that will mean big changes in K-12 education. But it will also mean changing accounting rules for “intangibles” that are now counted as costs, not investments. Right now R&D and education are defined as “consumption” in the GDP statistics, not investments. That’s ridiculous.

So who would make a good Innovation Economics Adviser to the President? Perhap Daron Acemoglu at MIT or Paul Romer at Stanford. Send in your picks please.

I won’t go into the next Defense Secretary, except to say that this person will play a major role in innovation.

I will suggest a Secretary of State—Fareed Zakaria. No, he hasn’t run any big organization and his strength is in analysis—but what a strength! Fareed’s latest book, The Post-American World: The Rise of the Rest, is the right frame to understand America within the global context.

So let’s play a game—name your cabinet. Who would you choose for an Obama cabinet—and why.

Reader Comments

Jeff

October 27, 2008 8:16 PM

News Flash, Obama has not won the election. Your prolonged presumptions belittle the importance of our democratic process. Let the nation vote.

radu

October 27, 2008 9:42 PM

obama being a rational human being will make sure that he will listen to ( at least ) two sides of the argument always: - so for the VC post only one choice I have craig venter who is both scientist and economist ( OK, I am scientist myself so I am biased).
what obama will bring will be a new approach in rationality, non-axiomatical type this time. he doesn't trust book worms who will show you only statistics and equations, he will bring people with real life experience who can relate to the real life situations. and the IT area in VC is based basically on a limited set of theorical assumptions, in biotech industry ( I am close to it ) you have practically a variety of theoretical options and innovations are not a product of deriving new ideas from axioms, but of a constant struggle. and once you have something new you can not certify it will be repeated next time.
or maybe a heavy weight like Sachs or Krugman who have a strong foot on the ground beyond the beauty of the dogmas usually economists love to hate to debate.
for state zacharia for sure, because like obama can take the skin of the opponent and neutralize its natural defenses, because he is an immigrant and thinks therefore with both sides of the brain, because he always is testing his own ideas, and because he is able to sell you what you gave him for free. and also because he is the only one capable to talk to any freak leader in this world and get him to the middle.
for defense somebody who understands terrorism, cultural conflict and soft power.
pentagon: here only gary heart

Lyn

October 27, 2008 9:48 PM

Obama has already bought Silicon Valley. He promises no capital gains for investments in small businesses. Who do you think invests in small businesses? Answer: Venture Capitalists. He has bought their support by also promising tax breaks for "New Energy" which is a code word for their current investments. The USA sure doesn't need one of these guys on the Cabinet. You are full of very bad ideas and you are too naive to be a journalist.

Jerry

October 27, 2008 10:13 PM

I hope it's a McCain cabinet, and that a Venture Capitalist never sees the inside of the Cabinet room. You are amazingly presumptious and unprofessional.

jean

October 27, 2008 10:20 PM

I admire you for your creative thinking ahead of the election. The only thing I can say is: WE'RE ALL IN TROUBLE IF BARACK DOESN'T WIN. FOR ALL IN DOUBT, READ HIS PLAN, AND WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T BELIEVE THE LIES ON FOX!

Kartik

October 28, 2008 2:46 AM

"News Flash, Obama has not won the election. "

Jeff, if the voting process were fair, this would be a contest. But Obama has gone through great lengths to steal the election. Not just in 1 state (like Gore in FL in 2000), but across 5-7 states. Obama has been accepting donations from foreigners, including from Russia, China, and Al-Qaeda.

So Obama will be the next President, after successfully stealing the election.

bobestes

October 28, 2008 3:57 AM

You mean, one of the same venture capitalists that fueled the dot-com bubble of the late nineties, the last great bubble market before the housing bubble popped?

Joe

October 28, 2008 5:06 AM

News Flash 2: Jeff read the article before you accuse the author of presumption. Read the first sentence!
"I don’t know who will win on November 4 but if Obama becomes the next US President, here’s some advice for picking a cabinet for the 21st century."

Bourgogne

October 28, 2008 7:35 AM

Innovation - Bill Maher
Defense - Dr. Evil
State - Chris Rock
Treasury - Dan Akroyd
Interior - Rosanne Barr
Homeland security - Jack Black
Agriculture - Paul Rodriguez
Attorney General - Sandra Bernhardt
Education - Henry Rollins
Commerce - Jerry Seinfeld

Why all these comedians?...because US politics has become a monsterous joke.

Dan

October 29, 2008 8:48 PM

The innovation board of the future needs to go beyond conventional thinking and definitions when approaching the subject of innovation economics.

Too often Innovation "Czarness" is reserved for the ivory towers of academia, corporations, and self proclaimed guru's. Meanwhile, all of the real innovation happens in billions of human interactions among the regular people.

The total capacity of American social capital, creative capital, and intellectual capital will need to be captured in order to increase our productivity to a point where we can, at best, support this astonishing debt and at worst, trade in a new social currency if the dollar crashes. Then we need to go after Global Warming, etc.

The Obama administration - and I say this because he could probably pull it off - needs to integrate social networks so that knowledge assets are allowed to become tangible outside the construct of the traditional corporation - especially wall Street. Once disassociated, Social Networks can be reintegrated into the old business model in an economy backed by innovation instead of debt. That's what Innovation Economics means.

A key ingredient will be a national knowledge inventory. Obama needs to allow Social Networks to build an integrated high resolution knowledge inventory with sufficient protections and security. Then, there needs to be a percentile search engine that matches most worthy knowledge surplus to most worthy knowledge deficit. Finally, we need an innovation bank that can build an algorithm and library for the "secret sauces" of successful combinations of knowledge assets so that they may be simulated again and again

To reduce the risk of innovation investment reduces the cost of innovation capital. That is what an innovation economy is.

The Ingenesist Project (http://www.ingenesist.com) is an open source economic development project to induce an innovation economy.

Sloan

October 31, 2008 1:26 PM

Jeff, I'd stay away from those sour grapes, if I were you.

Ajoy Adhikari

November 5, 2008 3:51 PM

I will suggest the following:
Treasury: Has to be a drastic and forceful financial GURU.

For the State Dept: I cannot think of anybody better than General Collin Powell. Of course he will do just as good as the Defence Secretary.
And I will nominate President Bill Clinton as The Ambassodor atlarge.
I will depute VP Joe Biden as the Cheif Negotiator of Foreign Policy.

And we need a Real Good Person like Jimmy Carter to be the African special envoy.

D. Louis

November 5, 2008 4:04 PM

NEWS FLASH JEFF...BARACK OBAMA IS THE 44TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!

Anthny

November 5, 2008 7:18 PM

Jeff......you were saying?

and miss thing with the "stealing of the election"... Miss Kartik, I know you are not so twisted as to say that Al gore stole FL....go check your facts sweetheart...you got it backwards! Anyway, I'm sure that there are going to be some people that just simply refuse to admitt that this is what people wanted and need. BUT I think if you look at both the national and global reaction, there is a sense of unity and hope for everyone. I dont think that we would have seen the same thing if John would have won!!!!

Melanie

November 5, 2008 7:38 PM

I hope President-Elect Obama chooses Dennis Kucinich for any number of cabinet positions. He would make an amazing Secretary of State. For all the progressive voters who were inspired by Congressman Kucinich's honesty and bravery throughout his service to his state of Ohio and to our country, the blatant disenfranchizement and exclusion of his voice (our voices) from the presidential debates dealt another serious blow to our belief in what is possible in our democracy.

That Obama's victory has broken through the centuries-old race barrier in our country is a miraculous testament to our desire as a people to rise above demagoguery and stereotyping and to reach out for leadership, regardless of the skin color, personal religious beliefs (or disbeliefs). We still need to prove this can happen regardless of gender, sexual orientation, and a respect for secularism. And we still need to grow above corporatism - i.e. handing over our democracy to the twin, corporate-run political parties that shut down our democracy to any other representative voices who are not owned by Wall Street and the Federal Reserve.

I supported Dennis Kucinich, because he represents me best - he speaks the truth about my family's situation and experiences, the issues that grip us daily, and to address what we believe needs to be priorities in our country. Had any other nominee than Barack Obama been running, I would again have chosen to just stay home this election, effectively shut down again by the disenfranchising behavior of the Democratic National Committee as it crushes independent voices as effectively (if not moreso) than the RNC.

Obama could help heal these wounds and give progressives true hope that change is really at hand - not only the change we have seen with Obama's historic victory, but the promise that real change will pave the way for a return to genuine democratic practices for our future.

Season

November 6, 2008 1:27 AM

Looks like the nation voted Jeff...in a BIG way!

Steve D.

November 6, 2008 2:46 AM

While I admit to being anxious to hear Barack Abama's picks, I am certain that he will surround himself with a group of brilliant and qualified people to see us through the next four years. You can bet that this list will have a nice balance of both Democrats & Republicans.

holly

November 6, 2008 6:11 AM

One can only hope that Obama's choices are well thought out and not ones that pander to the typical "interests" that are out there. The goal is America - it's economy & it's citizens. The fact that he as already asked Rahm Emanuel to be chief of staff is curious. As I recall Rahm used to be called "Rahm-bo" for his hard-lined approach. Mr. Emanuel's bio is on Wiki.

nazrul

November 7, 2008 1:29 PM

Fareed Zakaria as the Secretary of the State, seems very interesting!! But do you think Obama's America can do such??

Denise

November 7, 2008 7:05 PM

A president's surrounding him/herself with strong, educated, fair people with different viewpoints is essential. That's one of the reasons George Washington was such a great military leader and president.

fitzi

November 11, 2008 5:06 PM

JEFF...Now who is laughing? Bet you won't even read this comment now...went to alaska to cool down your fraustration;)

Ewnetu

November 12, 2008 2:56 PM

I propose someone like Ron Paul who understands what dictators like meles zemawi of Ethiopia has done to the continent and deal with African problems to bring the majority of Africans on our side and help us in the global innovation competition.. If we start showing care to Africa surly our economy would get the participation of over 700 million people in the continent..

Ewnetu

November 13, 2008 7:13 AM

I propose someone like Ron Paul, who understands what dictators like meles zemawi of Ethiopia has done to the continent and deal with African problems to bring the majority of Africans on our side and help us in the global innovation competition. If we start showing care to Africa surly our economy would get the participation of over 700 million people in the continent.

Draft Fareed

November 22, 2008 1:43 AM

Fareed may not be such a wild choice. Just check out the traffic and comments on DraftFareed.org to see that there are more than a few people backing him as a SoS pick.

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About

Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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