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Dear President-Elect Obama. It’s great to see you appointing so many competent officials from the Clinton Administration, such as Lawrence Summers, but you need to go beyond competence in your own Presidency and bring in true innovators. You are about to preside over an era of cascading change that requires new frameworks, new options and new solutions. In health, education, energy, transportation, defense and foreign policy, the US needs more than competency, it needs creativity.
The Clintonites you are bringing in are extremely smart, experienced and adept at advising you on what they know. But they all come out of a previous administration in a previous decade that has probably set their worldviews. They know what used to work and not work. They are nearly all protoges of Robert Rubin, believe in the economic model of “Rubinomics,” meaning deregulation, free trade and balanced budgets, and cut their teeth in Washington in the 90s. That’s what they know.
The question you and each member of your cabinet has to ask however is: What do you do when you don’t know what to do? For we clearly are in a situation of unknown and unknowable circumstances. Mr. President-Elect, you need to surround yourself with people who can navigate unknown social and economic spaces, who are comfortable with ambiguity and who can frame new ideas and generate entirely new options. You need people who can innovate in a changing world that is unclear and uncertain. You need design thinkers who can innovate organizations as well as new services and experiences.
So here are my choices for an Obama Innovation Dream Team. I’m hoping the blogosphere, which you understand and respect, will respond and suggest even more innovators for your administration
1- Chief Innovation Officer. Please drop the Chief Technology Officer title you are planning to create. That title is so 20th Century. Change is not simply about technology, it is about designing better organizations and cultures to deliver better services to people. You need a serious Department of Innovation led by a heavy-weight giant in the field who sits in on Cabinet meetings. My picks are IBM’s CEO, Sam Palmisano, who has transformed his company’s culture around social networking; Steve Jobs (obviously); and A.G. Lafely from P&G, another CEO who is creating an innovative culture within an old-fashioned bureaucracy. All understand that innovation is not solely about technology but about behavior, empathy, collaboration and designing new options for people where none existed before.
2- Creativity Advisory Board. Most corporations have innovation/design advisory boards that gate business proposals and organizational plans. A CAB could really help Cabinet level departments implement radical new programs and strategies. My picks for
a Creativity Advisory Board are Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, Patrick Whitney, dean of the IIT Institute of Design, and David Kelley founder of the Stanford D-School, plus a number of great designers and design managers, including HP's Sam Lucente, IBM's Lee Green, Google's Marissa Mayer, as well as the heads of the country's top innovation/design consultancies--IDEO, Continuum, Ziba Design, Smart Design, Doblin and others.
3- Health Policy. Tom Daschle is a great choice to head up the critical initiative to reform our health care delivery system, but you can scale innovations already underway by appointing key people. Nicholas La Russo of the Mayo Clinic SPARC Innovation Program and David Eddy of Kaiser Permanente could provide Daschle with valuable lessons in health care innovation that is aleady under way.
4- Economic Policy. Mr. President-Elect, the economists you are appointing to the Administration, especially Larry Summers, are all extremely intelligent, respected and capable. But their approach is traditional--they are all from existing economic frameworks. You need new blood that focuses on behaviorial economics and innovation economics. These are the people you need to build an innovation economy that generates new jobs and profits out of new stuff, not making old stuff more efficiently. They need to know the value of innovation ecosystems, regional clusters, investing in teaching creativity in K-12, changing accounting systems to value human capital. Think Apple and the iPhone ecosystem and Silicon Valley and Stanford and venture capitalists.
My picks for economists are Daron Acemoglu at MIT, Paul Romer at Stanford, Lynda Carlson at the NSF and Robert Atkinson at the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation.
President-Elect Obama, you have to have BOTH Clintonian competence and Obamaian creativity in your administration to sherpa the US and the globe through the treacherous years ahead. Start adding innovators and design thinkers to your staff please.
Folks, who are your picks for the Obama Innovation Dream Team?
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.