Advice for President-Elect Obama--Design The Future, Don't Repeat The Past.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on November 06, 2008

In looking at the people President-elect Obama is choosing for his transition team and the names of those proposed for the new administration, I find familiarity, not surprise. They are capable people, mostly from the Clinton era or recognized economists, well known in their fields.

And I am disappointed. Obama has to do better to get us to the future. Yes, it is very early and yes, Obama has to reassure the nation and the world that he will have a very capable group around him. But much more is needed.

Let me quote one of the smartest people I know, Arnold Wasserman, runs The Idea Factory in Singapore. Arnold is on the Design Global Agenda Council with me here in Dubai.

Design thinking, the core of innovation these days, is central to solving the big, complex, wicked problems facing the US in health, education, transportation and economic growth. Design thinking can help us move away from a carbon-based economy, bring 21st century K-12 education to all kids and finally provide the kind of health care most Europeans already have—at a modest price.

How can design thinking do this—here’s Arnold:

“Central to design thinking is designers’ unique ability to bring imagined futures to life in the here and now. Most people think about the future as a linear projection of the present. Designers think differently. We inquire deeply into peoples’ lives today…then we take an imaginative leap into normative (desired) futures and then integrate backwards into what has to happen starting Monday morning to bring those futures into being. We create provocaations—depictions, simulations, visual narratives and immersive experiences of future worlds. We progressively iterate technological and social prototypes. We invent day-in-the-life scenarios of specific people in those worlds engaged moment-by-moment in life, work, play, learning and mobility.

In addition, designers have an ability (almost an obdession) to take massive of undifferentiated information and make knowledge structures out of it—assembly it into visual models and frameworks that give it clarity and meaning and make it usable for decision making.”

People who think this way and act this way are essential to the Obama White House. Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who backed Obama early, is one good candidate as head of a new Cabinet level Office of Innovation. Schmidt could lead a group that develops a new National Innovation Policy.

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Reader Comments

JB

November 8, 2008 10:29 AM

Bruce, what about Giorgio Armani to complete the designer team alongside the Philps design guru you quote?

Patrick

November 8, 2008 05:33 PM

I assume you know these people personally to be disappointed in them.
Take to heart that, while you may be disappointed in their names, they probably like their names just fine.

Jim Graham

November 9, 2008 05:11 PM

Patrick, I have to agree with Mr. Nussbaum. Obama ran on a platform of change, and on a platform of inclusiveness, cooperation, and collaboration. Not partisanship. Then, Obama's first announcement is Rahm Emanuel. First, a partisan brawler with a potty mouth. Second, bringing geographic diversity of a couple of dozen miles radius to the Illinois Senator-President Elect's staff with an Illinois Congressman.
Early decisions from Obama seem to be poor decisions, and they disappoint.
Lincoln surrounded himself with his staunch enemies, because his enemies were the most competent people at the time. Perhaps Obama will look to an Illinois lesson for guidance and correction of the wrong course he is actively choosing.

Mark

November 10, 2008 02:45 AM

Patrick,
You prove his point. They do like their names just fine, in fact they love to hear them. They are all politicians, witb the same old Washington ideas and power brokers. I was hoping like the author that Obama would bring the change he promissed with some new blood and fresh ideas.

chris

November 10, 2008 04:16 AM

ADVICE FOR ARTICLE WRITERS ON DESIGN:Worry about design and let the President-Elect worry about federal policy.....Unless YOU would like to take a stab at it?

Bobbi Jo

November 15, 2008 07:32 PM

Last time I checked, the President-Elect represents the citizens that voted him into office in the first place. And that includes "ARTICLE WRITERS ON DESIGN". It is not only our privilege but our duty as American citizens, to speak out and help effect positive change in the world. It has been America's apathy that led us to where she is today. I just hope that Barack Obama, will, as he promised, "BE the change that he wishes to see in the world.".

DAVID A. DONAHUE

November 21, 2008 03:36 AM

DEAR MR. PRESIDENT;
I AM A 48 YEAR OLD MAN, HURT AT WORK IN 2000 HAD A FAILED BACK SURGERY BUT CONTINUED TO WORK UNTIL 2004 WHEN WORKERS COMP. REFUSED TO PAY FOR THE MEDS. THAT ALLOWED ME TO KEEP WORKING,BELIEVE ME I WISH I WAS STILL WORKING.
NOW MY SSDI PAYS MY MORTAGE WITH
$91.00 LEFT OVER TO LIVE ON, I'VE HAD TO TAKE IN A BORDER AND CASH ADVANCES ON MY CREDIT CARDS TO MAKE ENDS MEET.
I HAVE TO CHOOSE PAYING MY BILLS,FOOD OR GAS OF COURSE I PAY MY BILLS FIRST THEN FOOD AND IF I'M LUCKY MY BROTHER OR FRIEND WILL BUY ME SOME GAS. I KNOW I CAN GET STATE HELP, BUT I KNOW THIER ARE PEOPLE WORSE OFF THAN ME.
OF COURSE LAST YEAR MY WIFE LEFT ME, AND THE MORTAGE. I,M IN A BAD WAY AND I HEAR THAT IF YOU NAMED AN ECONOMIC TEAM THE MARKET MAY TURN,I KNOW YOU HAVE COME TO BE PRESIDENT AT THE TOUGHEST TIME SINCE THE DEPRESSION AND MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY DURING THESE TROUBLEING TIMES.

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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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