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"Stupid is as stupid does." - Forrest Gump, when he's asked "Are you stupid or something?"
Forrest Gump is "the story of a man with an IQ of 75 and his epic journey through life, meeting historical figures, influencing popular culture and experiencing first-hand historic events while largely unaware of their significance, due to his lower than average intelligence." (Wikipedia summary)
Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and mainstream media heavyweights such as Charlie Gibson, George Stephanopoulos, and Tim Russert are on quite public "epic journeys" themselves these days, as the Democratic Party enters the final phase of the nomination contest for what I believe will be the most important election in modern history. As I said in my blog about Wednesday's debate, a Perfect Storm of national and global socioeconomic issues is coming ashore. For this reason, the American people must elect someone capable of breaking free of conventional thinking. And only heroic efforts on the part of our mainstream journalists will prevent voters from drowning in a sea of useless, trivial, or false information.
As management guru Peter Drucker used to say, "There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.
In a way, I'm happy that more than 10 million people watched Wednesday's debate; because all of those voters got to see "that which should not be done at all" being done very well.
They got to see stupid, "electability" questions being asked for the first hour, most of which had been adequately addressed by both candidates already. (And, in the case of Barack Obama's relationship to Rev. Wright, addressed in the form of a lengthy, celebrated-by-many speech on race relations in America in the very same building.)
I say "stupid, electability questions," because it takes so little intelligence to ask them. "Gotcha" is a game we all learned when we were little children. Any of us could moderate that kind of debate.
It also takes little intelligence to spend all your time wondering about the horse race side of the contest. Tim Russert spent his entire MSNBC show fixated on this electability issue. "How can Hillary win?" he kept asking his guests, as if all his brain could wrap itself around was the "unimaginable just last year" (in Tim's words) concept that Hillary Clinton could lose the Democratic nomination.
Asking Hillary and Barack - or other pundits, in the case of Tim Russert - about things like the torture memo written by John Yoo (which, according to the AP, the Justice Department is now investigating) would take some real intellectual firepower.
I also say "stupid," because you have to be a journalist with very little awareness of ordinary voters' concerns - in other words, a journalist who doesn't know how to do his or her job - to focus so intensely on who will win. The public has already expressed their feelings about this. In a recent poll, 67 percent of all Americans said they believe "traditional journalism is out of touch with what Americans want from their news."
Finally, I say "stupid," because mainstream journalists are completely unaware of the transformational nature of the times in which we live. They keep saying "Voters acted a particular way in the past, so that's how they will act this year as well," as if this year were not a unique moment... as if the American voters are not capable of learning and growing themselves.
I believe voters have. Like a woman who has tolerated being in an abusive relationship - because her husband has said "I love and care about you" even as he has beaten her up on a regular basis - but finally reaches a point where she sees the truth of the situation and leaves him for good, I believe this is the election where millions of voters want to get rid of politics as it's being played... they want to get out of this abusive political relationship.
This is the year that voters finally realize that "that which should not be done at all" - including mainstream media coverage focused on the trivial - is being done very well and needs to stop!
Which brings me to Hillary Clinton... and why her name is the most prominent of them all in the title of this essay.
When I read that Hillary said Barack Obama was complaining about how tough the questions were in Wednesday's debate... which is what SHE had been doing for months, going so far as to reference a Saturday Night Live sketch at one point and release a "piling on" video at another... I finally shook my head and realized "She's too stupid to see that her world of fighting over who will be the dominant force - the alpha female (in her case) - is on the way out. She can't see that we are entering an age of interdependent living - the only way we will solve the global warming and food crises - which will require leaders who are skilled collaborators, not just "the smartest person in the room" types like Hillary.
Hillary can't see that her time - the time of her world view on politics - is coming to an end.
She can't see that this isn't personal. It's not about her and Barack at a personal level. It's about much larger sociological forces... forces that have been working here in America towards this shift from domination to collaboration since World War II.
Yes, World War II. That's when the need to build lots of weapons quickly and with very high quality helped give birth to the team-oriented management principles of organizational development leaders such as Peter Drucker, Joseph Juran, W. Edwards Deming, and Russell Ackoff.
Strange but true, "working together" is not some "Hippie concept" from the 1960's. It developed from efforts by our own government to figure out how to win WWII. We even exported this knowledge to the Japanese starting in the 1950's, which is why their products ultimately had the best quality in the world.
And to show you how far away from "Hippie-dom" this leadership approach is, the largest American program to teach this way of thinking in existence today was started by President Ronald Reagan: The Baldrige National Quality Program, run by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and named after Malcolm Baldrige, President Reagan's Secretary of Commerce. That's right. Ronald Reagan thought this way of thinking deserved to be advocated and taught by the federal government. The Baldrige Program was launched in 1987.
As I've written before, Bill Clinton was a huge fan of Dr. Deming's team-based approach when he was governor of Arkansas. Unfortunately, Hillary never learned these lessons from Bill. If she had, she would have absorbed the related core principles of collaboration and innovation - including societal innovation - which is what the public is demanding now.
Barack Obama is offering voters a vision of collaboration and innovation in politics. Voters - who are familiar with innovations in the kinds of products and services the private sector delivers - have been thrilled at the prospect that a President Obama will bring that kind of thinking to the world of politics. To many (myself included, truth to tell given my organizational development background), this is a dream come true.
And that's why Hillary is losing.
Her inability to realize that we are in a transition time... that we are in a point of history where we are transforming to a much more interdependent world (one piece of evidence: China is financing a huge portion of our federal budget)... and that her world is rapidly becoming "the world of the past"... is why I'm calling her "stupid". Like Forrest Gump, she is a well meaning person who can only see what's in front of her from the perspective of the past. She cannot see the big picture of the transformation that is taking place.
Proof she cannot see this transformation is her talk of Barack Obama as being naive. Remember her sarcastic "The heavens will open up..." speech?) When people don't understand the significance of something new, they make fun of it... laugh it off as meaningless.
The inability to see something new as having real significance is a fatal flaw in a leader. Business school students study case histories of corporate leaders who failed to recognize a change in what customers were looking to buy... or who failed to recognize when a new technology was about to put them out of business... and whose companies suffer the consequences as a result.
We are now in a period in which innovation is finally coming to politics. And, given the Perfect Storm of problems we face, this is happening in the nick of time.
I just wish people like Charlie, George, Tim... and Hillary... were smart enough to recognize this period for what it is. Because then they would see the benefits this transformation will bring. And they would become "early adopters" of this way of solving our problems at a societal level, joining the ranks of those of us who are working to give birth to this new world.
We who are doing so know we have to watch our backs, because there's plenty of resistance by the old system to this transformational change. In the political world, people have become very rich and powerful from demonizing their opponents. (Hello. Can you say "Karl Rove"?)
But the time has come - no matter what the risks - to help society boldly go where it has never gone before.
I wish I could say that I think Hillary has the intelligence - and I'm speaking of emotional intelligence here - to break free of her past and be a constructive force to create this change. But from what I see, she just doesn't know how to stop fighting. She can't see that politics as "all fight all the time" is coming to an end.
As Forrest Gump said, "Stupid is as stupid does."
Steve Brant is an independent researcher, theorist, and Corporate Social Responsibility brand-building consultant. His mission is to help the Corporate Social Responsibility movement transform the global sociopolitical economic system so that (more...)