Below are some solutions for a few of the challenges we face together.
They were offered freely and with no partisan rancor from very smart, very talented, very successful experts in leadership, social media, marketing, innovation, employee engagement and even healthcare.
These experts were each a guest on our radio show. And over the past few months, I've started to ask guests what would solutions do they have for you, for us? What would they tell if you invited them to the Oval Office and asked for their help in their area of expertise.
And these experts offered some terrific solutions. And they’re offered, freely. These are solutions that seem obvious, are free of anger, are comparatively inexpensive to implement, display long-term visions for our future and a sincere partisan-free desire to make our country better.
I’ve included the text of the question along with their answer. I linked the name of their company to their website and linked their name to their account on Twitter. Links to the transcripted highlights of our conversations and a link to the radio show are included, also.
Paul R. Williams, President and CEO of Think for A Change, LLC, has dedicated his professional development to the study of creativity and innovation in business. He specializes in establishing successful innovation management systems along with teaching the concepts of innovation maturity, organizational creativity and “helping business help itself.”
Me: On a national level, you’re sitting in the White House with the Council of Economic Advisors and President Obama turns to you and says:
Paul...what do you think? What are three steps the nation can take right now to accelerate the embrace of sharing ideas.
Paul: Start changing our educational system We’re still teaching our kids rote memorization skills. We’re producing factory workers for an economy that no longer has factories. Start there, plant a seed for the future.
Invest more in entrepreneurs. At least get out of their way.
Third, we miss nowadays, our national BHAG, big hairy audacious goal. Until we find something we all can get behind and crank up the ingenuity of the nation we’ll struggle.
Tamara Kleinberg: Chief Imaginator at Imaginnibles which serves up products, apparel, workshops and tools to unleash your imaginative superpowers and unlock your creative potential so that you can transform your life, your community and your world.
Me: Let’s say President Obama made you the nation’s Chief Imagination Officer. And he invites you to the White House and asks you:
What would be three steps we could take as a nation to re-ignite our imagination superpowers? And what would happen if we did?
First of all I’d have to say standing in the Oval Office would be stretching my comfort zone.
That would be awesome to have a Chief Imagination Officer...anywhere.
I would insist that creativity and innovation be part of the curriculum from Kindergarten through Grade 12.
There’s a great non-profit organization called Destination Imagination. It’s all about creative problem-solving skills.
Find some way to promote and encourage entrepreneurial ideas. Find a way to restructure the reward system. Make it a part of business.
Wow. I think I’d create an award for smart failing. We’d reward those who failed but did it with gusto. Took a risk that was intelligent and maybe it didn’t work out. This is my 7th business and this is the right one. And you know climb up that ladder and realize it’s on the wrong wall.
Make the award bigger than the Emmy’s and Oscars.
Jill Konrath, Chief Sales Officer, Author, Speaker & Trainer at Selling to Big Companies, is a leading-edge sales strategist and business advisor, is a popular speaker at annual sales meetings and association events. She helps sellers crack into corporate accounts, speed up their sales cycle and win big contracts.
Me: It seems our economy as a whole has failed to meet these criteria. Clearly, sales are not happening on a national basis, enough to sustain employment much less grow.
Let’s say President Obama invites you to meet with his Cabinet and his Council of Economic Advisors. He introduces you with a rave review of your book. You’re glowing. Then he turns to you and says:
Jill. Our economy needs some sales. How can we speed up sales, win more business with today’s frazzled customers and ...create more jobs?
What do you say? Our economy hinges on your advice. No pressure.
JILL: To answer your question, I would tell him the biggest thing we can do is to Stop Selling.
What happens is when I see people selling, they think their job is to talk more. Sales is the only profession where when we think we’re doing our job we’re doing the worst thing we can do. “I gotta go out and sell.” These intelligent people start doing these crazy, unproductive, things.... They think it is good selling.
The best sales people aren’t selling. The best sales people are leveraging their expertise and their product or services line. They would call people up and say I read in the local business journal that one of your biggest challenges is this and I have some ideas on how to solve it.
The best sales people are business improvement specialists.
I would work with President Obama to better define what it means to be a business improvement specialist.
EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT - CORPORATE CULTURE
Mel DePaoli, founder of Contractors Doing It Right, has spent the better part of the last decade working with companies, schools, government clients and individuals on various aspects of organizational culture, branding and operations. Her mission is to illustrate how those characteristics intersect and can impact a company's bottom line.
Me: President Obama has called you to the White House. He’s read about you, recognizes you have some good ideas to rejuvenate the construction industry and its huge source of jobs. He asks you:
Mel, what are three ways we can resume learning among the companies in our national tribe?
What do you say to him?
Mel: First of all I say:
Thank you and I’m honored. I was surprised and security is a bit complicated.
If you really want to make a difference you have to understand what makes it different. The same philosophies where the government has its hand in an industry will not work here.
Think about what they did with science. They launched a campaign to not only educate about what science is today but how you can have a future in it and how it can change lives.
The average American doesn’t know enough about construction. As a result they selected the wrong culture. We can use media to our advantage. Make it easy to find and learn the basics.
COMMUNICATION & COLLABORATION
Sam Harrison, founder of ZingZone, and an in-demand professional speaker and member of the National Speakers Association, presenting highly rated seminars and keynote talks to agencies, firms and associations throughout North America and beyond.
Me: Let’s say President Obama brought you to the WH. And he realized our ability to grow as a nation is dependent on the ability to communicate and collaborate, share ideas and find new ways to implement them. And he’s walking you through the Rose Garden, got his arm around your shoulder and turns to you, Sam, and says
Sam? What are the skills we’re not providing our students in order to pitch creative ideas and what are three thing we can do today to give them the skills to successfully pitch ideas.
What would you say?
Sam: First of all I’d have to ask what happened to your presentation skills?
He was so powerful as a candidate. He made the best talks. Unfortunately, he put that aside. I would have loved to have seen him show the leadership and make those talks he made as a candidate.
We’re doing a good job teaching students what to think, but not how to think.
Second I think...we need to do a better job of interpersonal skills. Awareness, perception, ethos. A lot of team projects with a guide or a mentor would help.Help students improve their public speaking skills. Just simple training on how to speak, how to present and give them opportunities to present in the classroom.
Jason: That’s a very loaded and tough question. I’m very young and new to this business stuff.
The one thing I don’t understand is why...they don’t give more money to entrepreneurial people. I’d rather see some of that bailout money go to the entrepreneur who has that renewable energy to power that car with no carbon footprint.
I wish there would be a little more slice of the pie for small business and entrepreneurs. You have all these people who are hungry out of work and talented. But you give these people some kind of chance. You take a great mind and a great thinker...
Feel free to contact any of these guests directly. I can share that they would be delighted to hear from you.
Feel free to contact me directly if you would like to be a guest on our radio show. I would be delighted to host you. Our audience would love to hear from you as well. zane dot safrit at gmail dot com.
Note: Why? Why do I ask business experts how they would solve our national problems?
If we take ownership of these problems and their solutions then we take responsibility as adults and voters and community members for our country and its progress. If we do not, then someone else will. And who knows what their interests may be.
And for too long we have avoided these tough conversations within the business community for fear that their discussion and their solutions may be considered political or polarizing or partisan.
And, as a result our fears have become real. We have lost the ability to engage in meaningful debate, to share and respect differing opinions and ideas, to present ideas supported by not only logic but data as well. That presents an opportunity for other interests from all areas to hijack the conversation.
Now, with social media we can insert ourselves back in this conversation, regain our lost skills of debate and listening and compromise and direction. And, together (operative word), we can move forward to finding solutions that help us all.
Zane (and our radio guests)