Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is the Grand Designer.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on November 16, 2008

Hank Paulson is taking heat from economists, Wall Street institutional investors and politicians in Congress for changing the federal government bailout policy. The stock market went down last week partly on the fear that no one is in charge in Washington and that there isn’t any stability yet to the financial crisis and deepening economic recession. So Paulson the conventional wisdom is that Paulson is failing—and may be a failure.

That is simply not true. Paulson is doing what he should be doing, which is what designers do—he is looking at the facts on the ground and iterating and prototyping as he goes. With the housing bubble bursting, we are now in a period of fast change, high uncertainty, and deep confusion as to what to do. Standard policies won’t work. New programs have to be created on the fly. The best strategy is to try many things, fail fast, learn from the failures and move on. This is what Paulson is doing.

In fact, the big question facing the US is this: What do you do when you don’t know what to do? The answer is design your way into the uncertain future. Which is what Paulson is, in effect, doing. Paulson is the Grand Designer.

Reader Comments

MS

November 17, 2008 4:05 PM

I'm unconvinced. When the economy is at stake, and consequently the global economy, you can't iterate and prototype on the fly - that'll just sow more confusion and mistrust. Some stability and semblance of order meeds to be brought so that there is common ground to work off - and I don't see that yet. There's been a lot of hand outs to a risk-happy industry and little demonstration of responsibility and commitment in return (not that strings-free equity purchases are likely to do that, anyway). (And now there's another industry, this one moribund, that wants its share of the pie.) These measures are not confidence boosting - they are band-aid fixes that merely reinforce the status quo - hardly game-changing. No design thinking there, at least not yet.

DJ

November 18, 2008 3:05 AM

I am equally skeptical and critical of Paulson. I can agree with your argument on iterative prototyping and fail fast to succeed. However, I contend if Paulson is the right person for this task, particularly, when GS was part of the problem. Shouldn't we have someone who is NOT so vested and possibly with tunnel vision in the current process and status quo to be the grand designer?
When someone so entrenched as Paulson is in charge, can he suspend his judgement, generate a lot of alternatives and come up with innovative ideas? Moreover, where is the team that supports him and the effective team brainstorming?

KJ

November 18, 2008 9:15 PM

Bruce, I have to say I think you are wrong on this one. The problem is not that Paulson is iterating and prototyping -- which is good. The problem is that he is getting the reputation of saying one thing and then doing another. Like any good design solution, he needs to involve the client in the iteration process. In this case, one client -- Wall Street -- was taken by surprise. Companies made decisions based on the TARP program actually buying assets. As one commentator put it, foolish people actually believed that the government would do what it said it was going to do.

jamesinflorida

November 19, 2008 12:23 PM

Paulson is the worst person to oversee the reform of his friends and associates, it is rift with conflict of interest. He is doling out billions upon billions, that last great bank robbery before we go broke and have to suffer a reduced standard of living for a generation or two.

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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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