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Dear President-Elect Obama, Appointing Larry Summers to The National Economic Council is Not Enough. You Need An Innovation Dream Team.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on November 20, 2008

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?

Reader Comments


November 21, 2008 8:40 PM

I agree for the need of innovative thinkers. Our economy is making a shift between the selling of natural resources and products to the selling of ideas, systems, and discoveries. We must choose our leaders appropriately.


November 21, 2008 10:13 PM

Dear President Barack Obama and Esteemed Administration Staffers,

First off, let me just say that I think it's fantastic that you've set up this website asking to hear people's stories and their ideas. The internet provides an unparalleled opportunity to communicate between the highest levels of government and the lowest, most humble constituents. I hope you will continue to exploit this as a resource and to develop new ways of using it even more effectively.

Secondly, let me express my wild-eyed enthusiasm for our new President and my utter and complete delight in the new direction our country has selected. There has never been a more exciting time in US politics than now. What a monumental triumph we have witnessed in the last month. Even though I know our nation has so much to do, and so many obstacles in our path, I can't help but feel that this moment is something worthy of stopping and cherishing. I have been glued to the election coverage over the last year or so and here now in the culmination of all the prodigious amounts of reading and listening I have done, the taste of victory is far sweeter than I ever dared imagine. I feel more hope for our country now than I ever have before and I eagerly anticipate the changes that Barack has been promising.

I tried to make this a short, succinct appraisal of what I believe we need to focus on as a nation, but after eight years of misery and desperation, I'm afraid that at the chance to speak to power (which is actually on my side for a change) I have digressed into a verbose diatribe which is the result of a weeks drafting. I respectfully ask that you please read patiently, with the due deliberation and attention I have invested into these words.

The issues I'm about to discuss are matters which I haven't heard being discussed at length by the Obama team, or ideas that I fear won't get pushed hard enough to make a difference.

Here is what I hope for in America's near future:

1.) Domestic, Clean, Renewable Energy:

This is objective number one in my book. I'd like to see the Obama administration go after this one immediately and go after it hard. Overwhelmingly hard. I'd like to see this objective pursued so aggressively that the critics don't just whine about "unrealistic" goals--I want to see them stunned into muted disbelief. There is no such thing as overambitousness when it comes to energy independence. And I think we have very good reason for believing this. The more experts I listen to, the more intelligent people I converse with on this topic, the more I become thoroughly convinced that energy is far and away the economic and technological battleground for world leadership in the coming century. People like Thomas Friedman and Al Gore have been espousing these ideals for a long time now, but within the last 5 years or so, I have heard voice after respected voice join this chorus calling for the United States to seize the reigns and take this initiative.

During the second presidential debate, I literally jumped out of my seat when Tom Brokaw asked the question "Should we fund a Manhattan-like project that develops a nuclear bomb to deal with global energy and alternative energy or should we fund 100,000 garages across America, the kind of industry and innovation that developed Silicon Valley?" He came dangerously close to asking the question I would have asked first and foremost had I been in the moderator chair that night. But I think his question is flawed: there already IS a "garage-based", Silicon Valley style energy industry of many innovators working creatively to find new solutions--that's already going. I know because I work with many of these people each day. Could we be doing more to encourage this type of innovation? Absolutely, but that's another matter. The question he should have asked was simply "would you fund a Manhattan Project for green energy?" I stalwartly believe this is what it
will take to force that push, that push forward. Strident and swift action will be strictly required for actualizing any of our objectives--energy independence and better technology isn't going to come through complacency or waiting for solutions to present themselves.

Real progress will only come by a concentrated drive for real progress, and that means a Manhattan Project for green energies. During his stump speeches Barack likes to use the line "we can't drill our way out of this problem" and I wholeheartedly agree. But then, how DO we get out of this problem? The answer is by making determined effort to foster energy innovation, by using tax codes and regulations to stack the deck in favor of green energy instead of fossil fuels, and by exerting forcefully to knock down the powers who would seek to perpetuate our current situation. Make no mistake that big oil (and coal) is not going to go down without a fight, a fight by every means at their disposal, be it pseudo-scientists denying climate change on FOX news or secret payoffs to congressmen in exchange for blocking laws that will make alternative energies more profitable than their dirty counterparts.

I fear that real change isn't going to come unless drastic measures are employed--I'm talking about windfall taxes on oil companies, the profits of which can be used to subsidize and/or give tax breaks toward the construction of solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, and hydroelectric power. I'm talking about consolidating energy regulatory bureaucracy and the creation of a new Energy Czar to push these initiatives. I'm talking about a federally funded Manhattan Project style research lab which will shatter the limitations of our current green technologies and invent new ones which have not even been conceived yet. And I'm talking about mandating by law, that American auto makers produce hybrid vehicles with the goal of switching to a strong majority of non-petroleum burning cars when the technology becomes feasible. This is the future. We can live in the past and be usurped by Europe and Asia, or we can dig in, get serious, and provide that leadership that the
world is looking for in America. We need to put the pressure on this imperative, and now, before someone else does it and we become #2 in the world. For that is the price of failure. This issue is the proverbial elephant in the room--everyone knows about it, yet no one can seem to actually DO anything.

These words are the most important thing I have to say:
This isn't just about retaining our dominance as the technological leader of the world or our society's sustainability either--it's about our national security and sovereignty, it's about climate change, our economy, our educational system, our infrastructure, and our pride as a people. Nearly all of our other problems tie into this. This is our moment to step up to the plate and fulfill our responsibility to history. Understand, I'm 28 and this is my generation's moon shot. And Obama is our JFK. This is no exaggeration of the significance or urgency of the situation and I implore Obama to draw these same parallels when making the case to move forward with this agenda. We are all waiting for him to LEAD, for him to lead us with determination toward the place that everyone knows that we all must go. So please, LEAD on this issue, and lead boldly. America, and the world beyond, is waiting for that leadership. The importance of this task cannot be

And may I provide the reminder: In the first debate, when asked what the main priority of an Obama administration would be, the answer was energy independence. So there is a mandate and an obligation to kick start this movement. We are behind you!

2.) A new era of American moral authority:

Every time I read or hear a mention of "black sites," "extraordinary rendition," "waterboarding," "Guantanamo," etc I think to myself, "what exactly separates us from the 'bad guys'?" In the leadup to the Iraq war, I recall a lot of conservatives touting the fact that Saddam Hussein tortured people as evidence that he was an evildoer in the Mideast. I have no idea how to 'win' in Iraq. But I have a great idea of how to lose in Iraq (and the Mideast in general): by committing the same despicable deeds that made these people loathe their own leaders in the first place. If we want to reclaim America's status as that "shining beacon on a hill" that the rest of the world looks up to, then we must first reclaim the moral high ground. This means closing Guantanamo, ending "advanced interrogation techniques" for all branches of our armed forces and intelligence services, ending the programs of extraordinary rendition, and closing all "black sites". We should not
be in the business of human trafficking and secret jailing. I think that a public statement renouncing the policies of George W and a public apology to the world at large for our conduct over the last 8 years would be an appropriate gesture. We need to show the world that we actually regret our actions, as opposed to merely regretting getting caught in the act.

Over the last five years or so, when I travel abroad and someone asks where I'm from, I've been telling them Canada. And it's not that I don't love my country. I do. It's that I'm humiliated that these atrocities have been committed in my name. The world is going to hold us accountable for our actions, even if we don't have the political will to hold our own leaders accountable (they should have been impeached, and could have been impeached). So you tell a foreigner you've just met that you're an American and you can see by the look on their face that they're judging you. They assume certain things about you and suddenly you go from being a friendly face to a potential enemy. A dangerous, bigoted ideologue. I grew tired of this reaction, tired of having to explain at length, over and over again, how I am ashamed of my country's actions and how it is a national embarrassment how our president acts and speaks. I grew tired of having to make apologies and
massive policy statements every time I meet someone new. I grew tired of the constant reminder of how far off track we have become. It's this reprehensible behavior that is the root of a loss of dignity in our country. I want to be on the 'good guys' team again. I want my dignity back. I want a country who acts fairly, justly and with due respect to human rights around the globe, both when cameras are trained on us, and in the shadowy secrecy of CIA operations when no one is watching... except maybe the looming pen of a Washington Post exposé ready to blow the lid open on another round of shocking and disgusting secrets. I feel like we have become the thing we originally set out to stop.

3.) Return to Constitutional rule, including the bill of rights:

It's an age old axiom that no one has more power to strip you of your rights and freedoms than your own government does. The last 8 years have been a starkly terrifying manifestation of that idea. We now have warrantless domestic telephone surveillance (a violation of the 4th amendment), dragnet internet monitoring (also violating the 4th amendment), suspension of habeas corpus when it's convenient (violation of the 6th amendment), flouting of the FISA courts (which were set up for good reason!) we have the Patriot Act (of whose name George Orwell would be proud), an unprecedentedly powerful executive branch, legal immunity for companies who aid the government in breaking our own laws, state sponsored torture (violating the 8th amendment) and the "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act" which provides very dangerously wide criteria for who can be categorized as a 'terrorist' (I would say many of these violate the 9th amendment).
That's 4 of the 10 amendments in the bill of rights, out the window.

These were previously unthinkable transgressions. I remember how we waged a cold war against the Soviets--an adversary with massive conventional and nuclear arsenals, gargantuan raw material resources and a worldwide web of allies--and we did it without sacrificing our civil liberties. Now somehow we are fighting people who literally live in caves, and we have lost 40% of the bill of rights. I feel like America just had a fast one pulled on her. I feel passionately that the "war on terror" is a wholly unacceptable pretext for the elimination of our most fundamental rights as citizens. And I fear that no one in Washington is paying anything more than lip service to restoring our freedoms, as we slowly march imperceptibly but inexorably towards the destruction of the freedoms which our founders risked their lives to give us.

Russ Feingold is a hero of mine for being the lone dissenting voice on that fateful day when the Patriot Act was passed. When questioned about his vote he replied 'Yes, do you know why I voted against it? Because I READ it.' His point is that there is entirely too much rubber-stamping going on in the interest of "national security" at the expense of civil liberties. I'm saying we can have both. Yes, we need to update our rules and regulations governing how intelligence is acquired in the digital age. But the government shouldn't be reading every email that gets sent. The whistle blowing of people like Mark Klein concerns me. On the same token, the government shouldn't be monitoring the telephone calls I have with my mother. No one can convince me that my privacy has not been violated by these acts. Now maybe that's not happening, but there has been so little disclosed about the domestic surveillance program that many people (myself included) simply
assume the worst. We created the FISA courts in the 1970s so there would be a framework to protect our citizens and do it within the law, and do it with oversight and transparency. We need to get back that. Badly.

As far as executive power, eliminating Bush's signing statements is a great step in the right direction, but the underlying problem is that the executive branch has gained too much control. Now that the power is in our hands, I can't deny that it is tempting to use it for our own ends, but what happens when the next Republican president takes over and wants to reenact all of Bush's terrible decisions? Our founding fathers had the foresight to implement checks and balances, and these are there for a reason. I would like to see the influence of the presidency scaled back.

4.) Get rid of that stupid color coded terror alert!

Seriously, what function does that possibly serve, other than making us all paranoid and scared when we go to the airport? I think for many people, the Obama victory was hugely significant in American politics not only because of race or as the death knell of neo-conservatism, or the end of the "southern strategy", but because it was a resounding victory for the message of HOPE, over the sleaze of fear mongering. Americans rejected the politics of fear in 2008, and we need to follow that line of thought to its conclusion. I'm sick of hearing about the "war on terror"--this endless "war" which intrinsically can never be won. Dick Cheney said it could go on for hundreds of years! I would like to hear a whole new lexicon for describing the fight we are in. These "wars" that can never be won--the "war" on communism, the "war" on drugs, the "war" on terror--I don't want to hear about them any more. Can we at least stop calling them wars? Sure we can outspend
the Soviet Union until they implode, we can arrest the leaders of violent cartels, and we can topple the Taliban, but none of these will end their respective "war". America is hungry for a vernacular of hope and optimism, for a positive outlook that can restore our self-confidence, even if the solutions to our problems remain elusive. I think this language of hope, of positivity is a large contributor to your success, and I yearn for it to continue.

5.) Stop the bailouts and start a new Obama Economics

One year ago, I had never heard this word on the news, "bailout." Now you can't watch CNN for five minutes without hearing it ten times. My money, and the money of all my fellow taxpayers is entrusted to the government to be spent responsibly. I get very angry when I see that companies like AIG are getting billions upon billions of our dollars and then read in the news about how their executives are being rewarded with lavish retreats and absurd salaries in the midst of this crisis we are in. I also feel that it is the pinnacle of all irony--this administration, who said that "the market" would take care of people who can't afford health care, who said that "the market" will generate demand for green energy, and who wanted to switch social security over to private accounts in the stock market--this administration, of all people, will have handed out nearly a trillion dollars attempting to save their much-touted "market" from destroying itself, while just
last year, "the market" was the solution to all of everyone's problems.

I get the sense that although I have a rudimentary grasp of economics at best, even the people who supposedly are geniuses in this subject don't really know what they are talking about. These people were supposedly masters of the financial system, yet precious few of them saw this crash coming, and now we want to entrust these same people with the keys to the castle by giving them a trillion dollars? Sorry, but I am not buying this. Not at all. No one has explained to me how this isn't anything short of socialism for the rich and Darwinism for the poor. No one has shown me how the bailout is a sound idea in the first place. If Paulson, Bernanke, and Greenspan all got blindsided by this, and can't honestly say whether a $700 billion gamble will pay off or not, should we be doing this? I defer to the words of a political hero of mine, Rep. Dennis Kucinich:

"Why aren't we questioning the underlying premise of the need for a bailout with taxpayers' money? Why have we not even considered any alternatives, other than to give 700 billion dollars to Wall Street? Why aren't we asking Wall Street to clean up its own mess? Why aren't we passing new laws to stop the speculation which triggered this? Why aren't we putting up new regulatory structures to protect the investors? How do we even value the 700 billion in toxic assets? Why aren't we directly helping homeowners with their debt burden? Why aren't we helping American families faced with bankruptcy? Why aren't we reducing debts for Main Street instead of Wall Street? Isn't it time for fundamental change in our debt-based monetary system, so we can free ourselves from manipulation by the Federal Reserve and the banks? Is this the United States Congress, or the board of directors of Goldman Sachs?!"

And I have my own questions too: how soon will the taxpayer be paid back for this? What is the strain on our currency, and by extension our country, that we will suffer due to the inflation by the 'creation' of all this new money? How can we afford to do this when we are already trillions in debt? What about the children of today, how is this fair to them, being saddled with this debt? What are the hidden costs? What are the far-reaching historical implications of this unprecedented socialistic involvement in our previously sovereign, capitalistic markets? Where does it end? Where is the oversight? Why didn't we get it in writing that the money we've already given out to banks would be mandatory for use as loans? Why should I not be afraid that all my tax money isn't going to help some financial advisor buy his next Jaguar?

I feel frustrated and more so, I feel helpless about this. Scant few individuals in government are even asking the right questions about this bailout plan. I feel like politicians are largely hooked into the Wall Street perspective and have no concept of what would help or what's needed on Main Street. They've been told by Wall Street lobbyists that they have to do this or the whole world will collapse, and so they're just going along with it like they're at gunpoint. It's extortion and it's criminal. I can't believe that propping up bloated albatrosses like AIG and the rest is actually going to save the stock market, or for that matter help the REAL problems: home foreclosures, bankruptcies, lost jobs and closing plants. So far it looks like it hasn't. Some people like to say that we need to measure the success of the bailout not by what has happened, but by what has not happened. I reject that argument. That's like saying, "because we gave away free
umbrellas, it hasn't rained." We are surmising about the causality in this relationship, at best. We thoughtlessly dump bewilderingly copious amounts of money on the upper crust and leave the average American hanging with no bailout help for main street... I remember during his Democratic nomination acceptance speech Barack had a great line: "It's time for them to own their failure". Yes. Yes it is.

Even worse, think about the 'opportunity cost' squandered here. I heard a statistic this week saying that with 30 billion dollars, we could fund enough agriculture and transportation to end world hunger. Even if that number is just picked out of the sky, say it was five times higher, $150 billion, that's still a fraction of this $700 billion which, in my eyes, is being thrown away. Think of the schools, hospitals, museums, and roads we could have built with all the money. We could have funded universal health care. We could have provided college education for anyone who wants it. We could have done an infinite amount of smarter and more beneficial things. Instead we paid exorbitant salaries and allowed greedy, shameless, corrupt Wall Street fingers to raid our piggy banks. Yes, they are going to game the system and run away with our money--this is no surprise, because that's what they DO on Wall Street! It's their JOB to figure out how to get more money
out of any situation that comes along!

To me, it sort of feels like the Bush administration is pilfering the silverware on their way out the door. $700 billion in giveaways seems like the crown jewel of cronyism, special interests getting their way--one last stab with this bloody knife, red with the stains of Katrina, Abu Ghraib, and thinly veiled plutocracy, one last stab before it's time to hand off this mess to someone else. There is a lot of simmering resentment among the working classes about how this bailout only covers the tails of the rich. This is a concern that should be addressed, at the risk of a sentiment erupting that "Obama SAYS he'll help the middle class, but when it comes time to put up or shut up, it's all about the Benjamins."

During the presidential campaign, Republicans loved to say that Barack's tax plan which would benefit the poor and tax the rich amounted to "redistribution of wealth" and "class warfare". Joe Biden responded that this tax plan isn't about redistribution, it's about fairness. An excellent point which made me cheer. But we need to come right out and call a spade a spade: this bailout is the final culmination of decades of failed economic policies, of trickle-down Reaganomics and a "put-it-on-the-card" mentality. Now we are dumping piles and piles of cash on the top of that "trickle-down" heap and it is still not working. For the past few decades there already HAS been a "redistribution of wealth"--from the middle class to the rich! I hope to see an economy that returns to a more sensible distribution of incomes among the classes. This kind of disparity between an ultra-rich and a poor class is the same situation which preceded the great depression and I
would argue that here there IS a correlation. In my mind, this bailout is the epitaph on the tombstone of the trickle-down theory. It's time for a whole new economics.

It's going to take a well-thought out and masterfully crafted actual solution, not just a bunch of band-aids. Stabbing in the dark with blind gestures of desperation like this bailout isn't going to dig us out of our woes. When Barack takes office, he's going to be placed at the helm and expected to come up with a new system of not just American, but global regulations to prevent meltdowns like this from happening. Al Gore likes to point out that the Chinese word for "crisis" can also be translated as "opportunity." So this is an opportunity for the good guys to re-regulate the financial markets in a way that will protect the average working man around the world and make his modest salary work for him. It's also an opportunity for gigantic multi-national corporate leviathans to come in and muscle everyone up so that the end result is a deck that is stacked to allow the fat cats to get even fatter, with plenty of loopholes for the rich and privileged to
multiply their wealth far above the heads of a powerless working class who will see a smaller and smaller slice of the pie, split among ever more people.

Since Barack is going to have a golden opportunity to help redefine the nature of the worldwide financial system, I hope that he always keeps, at the front of his mind, where it is he comes from. He's going to be put under heavy pressure to pound out a deal as fast as possible, most likely a deal that has been compromised by big players trying to game the system. Please don't let them manipulate it to their own ends. Your working people, the vast majority of America and the world beyond, are depending on you to keep a watchful eye. We hope you remember what it was like to live off food stamps, to not be able to afford the simplest luxuries, to not have a life of privilege. It is these people who most desperately need help from this new economy which has yet to be conceived. Please keep them in mind, above the wealthy interests who've bought the right to clamor the loudest to those in power.

6.) Election reform

I was fortunate to be able to attend the acceptance speech rally in Grant Park on November 4th, and what an ineffable, uplifting, and overjoyous night it was. I'll never forget that as long as I live. The atmosphere was electric and everyone I talked to was excited and energetic. But there was a strong undercurrent of irrational paranoia flowing amongst all these people. Many were commenting about how the polls indicated a strong lead for Obama but I heard the nervous quip more than once: "oh man, I just hope the Republicans don't pull some crazy sh*t at the last minute." These people are remembering the hanging chads of Florida in 2000, how Gore won the popular vote but lost the election literally by ONE vote, a vote not from the electorate or even the electoral college (that's a whole other can of worms) but from the supreme court. We remember voter suppression and intimidation in Ohio from 2004. We remember Dan Rather's exposé on Sequoia Voting
Systems and how the paper was inexplicably changed. We remember the internal memos from Diebold Corporation, manufacturer of touch screen voting equipment, promising a win for George W. We have a tenuous view of the reliability of our voting process, but we vote anyway and hope for the best. This phenomenon was exemplified by the fact that at the Republican rally in Arizona, they were listening to live country music, meanwhile in Chicago, everyone was glued to the jumbotron with CNN, obsessing and nail-biting.

Ironically CNN's coverage of the election actually remarked on the voting process, commenting that our elections could be run much more reliably and efficiently but it's 'something that only comes up right before the election, when it's too late to do anything. When the election ends we don't think about it for another three and a half years and then it's the same thing, all over again.' Spot on. There's a lot we could do to improve the process. Eliminating touch screens and requiring optical scan ballots with paper trails for all voting machines would be the biggest improvement. We could also take steps like having regional primaries, mandating a shorter campaign season, requiring public funding and either moving election day to a weekend or declaring it a national holiday so everyone would have an equal chance to make it to the polls. I am very optimistic that the Obama presidency will be a magnificent time for America, and I hope to see you win a
second term! In order to insure that happens, and happens fairly we need to improve our election infrastructure.

7.) Talk to us!

Barack's campaign has made the best use of 'new media' of any campaign in history. I'd like to see the 21st century equivalent of fireside chats done through a combination of blogging, videos (vlogs), and podcasts. It's in everyone's interest that we be as connected as possible--the better the public understands your challenges, your thought process, and your options, the more sympathetic the public will be, and the better the approval number will be. I've never lived through a government as secretive and shady as the Bush/Cheney administration, which is really a squandering of a great opportunity to communicate with the electorate on a previously unattainable level. Personally, I think it would be particularly effective to have vlogs on a particular topic taped in relevant locations. For example, tape a vlog about health care while visiting a hospital. Tape a vlog about Mideast peace with the Dome of the Rock in the background. Settings like this would
show people that Barack is a man of action, who goes to the scene of the problems to understand them first hand. I also would love to see a degree of candidness and maybe even some humor. Barack is going to go down in history as a transformational figure for our nation and he seems to take this position with a large degree of seriousness, which is good. However, showing a little personality will help people see that he is not just a great leader but a great man as well.

Perhaps another rewording of this point is that I yearn to see far more transparency and openness in my government. I recognize that secrecy is often required when it comes to matters of national security but the last eight years of needless stonewalling about every topic under the sun leaves me with a thirst for a government that takes pride in a well-informed electorate and doesn't feel the need to hide their plans and agendas.

8.) New legislation to prohibit pork

One of John McCain's strongest points in my eyes was his principled stand against pork barrel legislation. Going off the last point, it vexed me greatly to see the Bush administration present this bailout plan which they had been secretly working on for months, with no congressional involvement, and then expect a rubber stamp approval in the midst of crisis and calamity... for three pages worth $700 billion. But my point is not the outright ludicrous nature of the original bailout plan, my point is that in order to pass it, congress loaded it down with obscene amounts of handouts and giveaways to special interests. I recall that among them was a tax break for manufacturers of wooden arrows in Oregon. That's just one example of the irrelevant baggage that saddles so many important bills, and a good example of old politics at its worst. We need to stop this kind of nonsense.


November 21, 2008 10:43 PM

Not sure who my picks are just yet but this open letter reminds of this video.

Bruce Temkin

November 22, 2008 7:44 PM

Bruce: I am working on a post on my blog ( that recommends another new position for the Obama admistration: Chief Citizen Experience Officer. Keep an eye out for it...

Dr. Dori Tunstall

November 23, 2008 2:36 AM

Hello Bruce,

There are already efforts afoot to create a comprehensive design policy that includes design innovation policy.



Leaders representing the major U.S. professional design organizations, design education accreditation organizations, and Federal government design assembled in Washington D.C. on November 11-12 to develop a blueprint for a U.S. national design policy.

United by a shared vision of design’s integral role in the U.S.’s economic competitiveness and democratic governance, the Summit generated over 250 proposals for how the design communities and the U.S. government can work together to drive:
- innovation that supports American entrepreneurial spirit and economic vitality,
- better performance in government communications and effectiveness,
- sustainable practices for communities and the environment, and
- design thinking that advances the educational goals of all areas of knowledge.

Summit participants ranked proposals by their value to the American people and the design communities as well as their operational and political feasibility. Brad McConnell, economic adviser in the Office of Senator Dick Durbin, assisted the group in determining political feasibility. The Summit concluded with the proposal of several immediate action steps for developing a U.S. national design policy:
1. Re-establish the American Design Council to serve as a unified body representing all the U.S. design fields
2. Create a report of the Summit and its proposals as the first publication of the American Design Council
3. Seek funding for a report on the contribution of the design industries to the U.S. economy (similar to the British Cox Review)
4. Encourage and support the National Endowment for the Art’s proposing of a U.S. National Design Assembly in 2010 and Federal Design Improvement Program in 2011
5. Develop case studies from each design field that demonstrates the economic, social, and environmental value of design
6. Engage design industry CEOs to provide testimonials of the value of design
7. Propose a holistic design award that will represent the highest honor in American design.

Organized by Dr. Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall, Associate Professor of Design Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the U.S. National Design Summit participants included:

From Professional Design Organizations

- Richard Grefé, Executive Director of AIGA
- Paul Mendelsohn, Vice President, Government and Community Relations, American Institute of Architects
- Leslie Gallery Dilworth, Executive Director, Society for Environmental Graphic Design
- Deanna Waldron, Director of Government and Public Affairs, American Society of Interior Designers
- Earl Powell, Lifelong Fellow, Design Management Institute
- Frank Tyneski, Executive Director, Industrial Designers Society of America
- Allison Levy, Managing Director of Government and Regulatory Affairs, International Interior Design Association
- Paul Sherman, President, Usability Professionals Association

From Design Education Accreditation Bodies

- Catherine Armour, National Board Member, Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design
- Holly Mattson, Executive Director, Council for Interior Design Accreditation
- Samuel Hope, Executive Director, National Association for Schools of Art and Design

From U.S. Federal Government

- Clark Wilson, Sr. Urban Designer/Environmental Protection Specialist, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Frank Giblin, Director Urban Development Program, U.S. General Services Administration
- Janice Sterling, Director of Creative Services, U.S. Government Printing Office
- Ronald Keeney, Assistant Director of Creative Services, U.S. Government Printing Office

Summit Facilitators

- Renata Graw, Principal Plural, University of Illinois at Chicago MFA 2008
- Siobhan Gregory, MFA student in Industrial Design at University of Illinois at Chicago
- Alicia Kuri Alamillo, MFA student in Graphic Design at University of Illinois at Chicago
- Matthew Muñoz, Principal Design Heals, North Carolina State University MFA 2008
- Sean Burgess, IDSA
- Tim Adkins, IDSA

niti bhan

November 24, 2008 6:17 AM

A national design policy for the United States of America. That too spearheaded by ID-IIT. This day has been a long time coming. Finally.

Gong Szeto

November 24, 2008 7:03 AM

I nominate Jaime Lerner (even though he is not American - does it matter?)

Each of your picks, Bruce are indeed decorated for obvious reasons, but what they all have in common is having spent their entire productive careers in the private sector, optimizing *customer* experiences and *commercial* operations. You are making a rather huge assumption that all that is private translates to public. I have challenged you on this before and you have never responded.

Two things to note about Jaime Lerner. Architect/Mayor. Brought in $20B outside investment to his 400K town that grew to 1.4MM, #4 in GDP output. Also - and I'd love for you to reconcile this fact with your innovation via design-thinking evangelism: Lerner did not innovate from consensus-driven methodologies. It was plain old top-downism. Except that in his case, he is a bonafide genius and risktaker. It also helps that he is a dyed-in-the wool populist.

re: CTO - not even in the commercial realm would a CIO trump a CTO in importance, and to say it does in your pretend version of the public sector is silly. i would gather that your vaunted CIO would envision a citizen-centric Internet 3.0 (and who wouldn't?) he/she would not be effective in implementing such vision without the chops to disentangle the mess of antiquated standards that is government IT. your CIO would quickly become a figurehead.

Personally, I would only be excited about America's innovation future if Jaime Lerner were nominated to some position of authority - anyone else on your list sounds awfully like design conference cronyism to me. Pick an innovator who has already crossed the private-public line, not someone who will need to take 4 years to figure it out before becoming effective. Then it would be too late.


November 24, 2008 1:45 PM

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: This is NOT spearheaded by ID-IIT but rather University of Illinois at Chicago. I teach at UIC.

Takada Hiroshi

November 24, 2008 2:45 PM

Live in DC and worked in both the government and as a consultant. What is strange to me is how the author and comments believe more gov positions will solve problems rather than create new ones. Restrain the desire to make your ideas a tax payers burden, save it for the university and design conferences.

Gong Szeto

November 24, 2008 8:18 PM

What is the evidence you have that correlates number of government positions and number of problems created/solved? this just sounds like small-government. libertarian rhetoric to me. and what *i* find strange is everytime i ask a small-gov't proponent to actually quantify what that means...they can't. and quickly change the subject. happy to take this offline - i am very very curious what you mean.


November 25, 2008 2:50 PM

Is that a typo in your title "Enolugh"?


November 25, 2008 9:42 PM

We have a hugely integrated financial system. We therefore must have a hugely integrated innovation system.

The Ingenesist Project has specified the only viable innovation system. This really needs to be looked at as soon as possible.

We must allow human capital to become tangible outside the construct of corporations and inside social networks. Innovation must be crowdsourced

Kesavan Chandrasekaran

November 27, 2008 11:45 AM

I agree with him.The need of the hour is to concentrate on offsetting the social effects of rising income disparities and trying to enhance the quality of life of the common man.I am convinced that the sustainable future lies in those market segments at the 'bottom of the pyramid'.There are already signs of anarchy and bloody upheavals all around the world due to this big devide between high earners and the poor.One of our leading scientists Dr.Mashelkar keeps emphasising on 'more for less for more', implying affordability of products to more people at the bottom.Innovation and product development must focus on this segment.

Lane Smith

November 29, 2008 7:21 PM

Dear President Elect Obama, my husband Gene Smith ran as a 1992 Presidential Candidate & 2000 Congressional Candidate. His candidacy was on issues not personalities. As professionals in the healthcare field & considered mavericks since 1968, our theory & practice knew a 97% success rate with both substance abuse patients & the emotionally disturbed. Our book "Mind Matter Motion" published in 1982 & 1983 was sent to the Clintons when they took office. We rec'd letters from Hillary, other senators & former President Bush Sr. thanking us for our interest. Our practice was designed for the 21st century & we operated it since 1978. We attempted to start up 'mini clinics' nationwide but monies were not available for mavericks like us who were way ahead of our time. Still today there is nobody in the world yet who created an intangible (psychology) into a tangible (physiology) with the invention of a "Physiological Approach To Psychological Problems." The entire concept is the PREVENTION aspects of mental & physical health. OUR PREDICTIONS in the book were far surpassed in this 21st century on an obese population of catastrophic proportion. WE WISH TO BE HEARD this time because of the URGENCY to propose an effective healthcare system. MAY WE ASK FOR A MEETING WITH THOSE POWERS THAT BE WHOM YOU CHOSE TO HEAD A HEALTH CARE PLAN??? Appreciate your contact. PLEASE PHONE US:760 831 5064 or EMAIL US:


November 30, 2008 4:27 PM

Siamak Z. Salimpour

December 6, 2008 2:03 AM

Dear Bruce,

An "Innovation Dream Team" alone by no stretch of the imagination is going to be enough! The issue facing US is much deeper. There is a fundamental problem plaguing US innovation engine.
It's the employment practices and behavior adopted ever since the tech crash of 2000.

Employment in US has become a risk-averse practice similar to the practice of medicine. No wonder in a recent survey conducted nearly 50% of doctors claim to leave the practice if they had an alternative. This phenomenon has gone far too long unnoticed!! We have become a nation of "It’s not just about what you known; It's about who you know" employment practices. A whole new industry has evolved around dealing Human Resources similar to the sub-prime mortgage lending gold rush. Even the increasing social networking trends have cultivated a divisive behavior encouraging creating sub-communities within their eco systems. This has created a fragmented gated community employment culture. This environment my friend promotes and nurtures “groupthinking”-detrimental to innovative mindset which manifests from independent thinking.

If president-elect Obama intends to inspire innovation like he intends to prevent "groupthinking" at his cabinet, he needs to elect a team with mission to overhaul employment practices that have plagued US in recent years. People don’t become innovators over night just because of a marching order. Innovators are aplenty. They may just be misplaced and mismatched…due to our broken employment practices.

We at are trying to do something about this despite the uphill battle. We do not believe in the philosophy of “it's not just about what you know, it is about who you know.” We believe “It's about who you are.”

Siamak Z. Salimpour

Lori Hobson

December 10, 2008 11:12 PM

Thank you for advocating for the inclusion of some of the greater creative and productive minds in our country, and for looking beyond NY/WA, too, since a lot of innovators reside on the West Coast outside the clutches of the vested interests in status quo.

Speaking of the old school: Lawrence Summers, hmmm. Perhaps he is intelligent in a focused way, but I have not forgotten his comments at Harvard regarding women and mathematics. Has anyone asked him if he can put his prejudices aside in this new capacity? As I wrote to Mr. Summers then, I assume he just suffered from availability bias since he was apparently unable to attract strong women mathematicians to apply. ;-)

Lori Hobson
Stanford, Mathematical Sciences and Economics degrees with distinction, 1983

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