Tuesday, April 25, 2017

How Methodology and Postponing Judgment Would Help Political Debates

I enjoyed reading “Bringing Science to the Art of Strategy” because it applies a structured methodology to the amorphous topic of strategy.  “Data driven,” “disruption,” “synthesis.”  These buzz words are commonly seen on company websites or a business’s job advertisement.  It is no surprise that companies often do not know how to properly employ these concepts.  For instance, last week we learned about how various media outlets and companies look to Uber as an example of disruptive technology, when in fact it does not fit the precise definition.  As another example, the article discusses how data mining might seem like a productive task, but that often the data mined describes the problem rather than prescribes a solution.  The article addresses this dilemma by demonstrating step-by-step what questions to ask, the first question being: What are two mutually exclusive options that could resolve our company’s issue?
I also appreciate how the article places priority on exploring all options rather than jumping to conclusions.  For example, the article implores that companies delay criticisms of a solution’s likelihood until Step 4: Identify the Barriers to Choice.  Delaying quick judgments makes sure that the company does not preclude viable solutions.  For example, Step 3: Specify the Conditions for Success states, “what must be true for each possibility to be a terrific choice” is much different than “what is true.”  If the conversation veers toward what is true, then a opponent of that choice will vigorously attack it, possibly precluding the group from considering what could have been a great opportunity for the company.
As a student of policy, I cannot help but wish that this type of methodology were mandated in the political arena.  Both the methodology and the insistence on postponing judgment as long as possible would do wonders for structuring productive political conversations.  During elections, one often hears the argument that, “Candidate X’s policy would never work because no one in Congress would ever vote for it” or because “it’s too idealistic.”  Those types of statements are counterproductive.  Quick judgment based on one’s party loyalty or based on mere speculation will lead to conversations in which all stakeholders dismiss any potential solutions, and will ultimately result in gridlock.

Take into consideration what happened when Abraham Lincoln applied concepts similar to those articulated in the article.  The book Team of Rivals details Abraham Lincoln’s strategy during the Civil War and how he solicited advice from all of his cabinet members.  Furthermore, he diversified his cabinet members in terms of what viewpoints they represented; a few of them often heatedly opposed Lincoln’s ideas. Lincoln ultimately made the final decisions throughout the war, but only after first considering all possible options and consulting the advice of his colleagues.  Had Lincoln listened to the advisers who insisted that winning the Civil War was too idealistic and not good for the country, America might be wholly different than it is today.

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