Which room are you going to put out first? Or are you going to call the fire department and ask them to put all of it out? Or are you going to say, you know what, we love the living room; start over there. And if you can, get quickly to the kitchen, and next to the den?"
"We could do that. And maybe by the time they get to the kitchen or the den the whole house is in ashes."
Gibbs suggests that the answer is to put all the fire out, saying,
"Instead of asking the fire department to pick different rooms in which to extinguish, the president has decided to alert the fire department and everyone involved; that we have a responsibility to move this country forward, address the long-term problems and the short-term problems in order to create jobs for the future."
This morning, on Morning Joe, Mr. Scarborough, Mike Barnicle and other talking head pundits all discuss firefighting theory.
Jack Welch emotes, "You couldn't run a company, with 300,000 employees, with five initiatives all at once."
Hello! GE is an incredibly multifacted company doing hundreds, if not thousands of things. What was Welch doing, playing golf? Of course, even GE is now in trouble, having just cut its dividends.
Amazingly, none of the half dozen or so pundits on today's Morning Joe get it. I'm surprised they aren't criticizing Obama for paying attention to Iraq, Afghanistan and North Korea-- more distractions from the economy, right?
The problem is these "experts" are seeing the world with D.O.S. minds while we live in Windows times. DOS was the original operating system that Microsoft developed, which spawned the computer revolution. It worked well, enabling you to do one task, with one software program open at a time. DOS was soon replaced by the MAC and Windows multitasking operating systems. Now, it's hard to imagine using a computer that only does one thing at a time. We have microwave ovens smarter than that.
The people talking about dealing with "the" fire, before doing something else are DOS-brained old-timers who are neuropsychologically different from people under 30, and people who have come to live and breath using the MAC or Windows multitasking operating system environments. The people who are comfortable with multitasking see nothing wrong with opening a number of programs, getting them running and engaging in multiple tasks at the same time. For most people under 30 and those of us over 30 who have become comfortable with multitasking software, this is the only way to function-- anything else is archaic and buggy-whip-like thinking.
The world has never been a single-task place. DOS was a short-lied stepping-stone to a smarter, more natural model of multi-tasking functioning, but it also represents left brain, linear thinking. The human brain evolved with two lobes-- left and right-- for important reasons. Right brain activities-- holistic, visual, creative, integrative thinking are essential for putting the pieces together. Left brain functions-- sequential analysis, step-by-step, mathematical, verbal expression-- are also essential for getting things done. But to effectively cope with the world and all its vicissitudes, you need both.
That means you don't just look at the banks, or the insurance companies or the mortgage companies or the credit rates, or taxes, or the amount budgeted for spending. You look at all of them and go beyond to look at, not the big picture, but the whole picture-- needs for the future, emerging trends and problems, projected changes.
If you have the mental ability to juggle all those ideas, then you can stretch further and upload the ability to evaluate new ways of looking at the situation and the problems we are faced with.
David Korten, in his new book, Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth shares a story of a man who sees a baby drowning in the river. He jumps in to save her and brings her to shore, only to see another baby, struggling in the water, coming downstream. He jumps in again to save the next baby, brings him to shore and sees another baby. He jumps in again and rescues that baby, and continues to rescue baby after baby. The problem is, he never looks far enough upstream to see what's going on, why there are babies in the river.
We need big thinkers who can multitask, open up their minds to "upload" all the different ways of seeing the world we are, so they can look far upstream, so they can look far enough to see new possibilities, new models. Korten describes a world post Wall Street. That's a big idea for investors, 401K and IRA holders and all the viewers of CNBC. It may seem impossible for CNBC's histrionic Jim Cramer, who was touting, until very recently, some of the companies that are now on the bailout dole and on the verge of or already failed.
A paradigm shift which moves from a Wall Street economic model to a Main Street model just may not work. But when times are this bad, when our way of life is threatened, it is time, now, to have the wisdom, capacity and courage to consider all the options, all the issues, models and possibilities. The "put out THE fire" mentality is a symptom which is the tip of the iceberg, in terms of these "DOS brains" inability to wrap their heads around the holistic, biggest pictures and the idea of simultaneously doing multiple actions.
Military leaders have always had to master multiple actions and issues simultaneously. You have to feed and arm and provide medical care and latrines for warriors. Pundits, on the other hand, are accustomed to dealing with one or two or three breaking stories they have to comment upon with words-- strictly left brain thinking. In these hard times, perhaps their armchair, low caliber ammunition would be better used attacking people who are doing all they can to sabotage the bigger thinking, bigger visioning leaders who are working at dealing with the problems we face-- many of them caused by past failure to deal with the biggest pictures.
Former GE CEO Welch says, when it comes to Obama, "There's no critical thinking. It's a romance." Maybe old titans of industry like him just don't get how different the world is and is becoming. They see the new, multitasking, bottom-up world through top-down, sequential, single track minds and it is blurred and, for them, wrong. But it is THEIR problem and that means their take on our current problems just won't provide the answers and solutions we need today an tomorrow.