Our vision for America goes beyond any single individual, beyond any political party, beyond any ideology. Everyone I know, whether Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or Socialist, wants to make our country better. The problem is that we disagree on how to do it, and these differences have grown wider as the rhetoric escalates. There seems like no room for compromise when, in actuality, we aren’t that far apart.
Every American I’ve met wants less gun violence, lower taxes, affordable healthcare, fewer cumbersome regulations, cleaner air and water, livable wages, a healthier economy, and better education for our children.
The trouble is that our approach to solving these problems is backwards. Politicians tend to come up with sweeping ideas for change without any proof their plans will actually produce the desired results. Instead of arguing over which party’s untested theories are right, why not design lean experiments so we can actually see what works and what doesn’t.
In Silicon Valley, this is how startups innovate. By engaging in short, cost-effective experiments, they are able to quickly test each of their assumptions, gather data, and iterate, until they prove their big idea deserves more funding.
I know this because that’s what I teach entrepreneurs around the world, and it’s this process we need to bring to government. Using the latest technologies, we now have access to more data than ever before. Just look at how companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Apple are constantly using data and new tech to radically change the way we live and work.
We need to bring the same innovative thinking to government. Take almost any issue, whether it’s lowering gun violence or providing affordable healthcare, and you can find a huge amount of data waiting to be utilized. We just have to take advantage of it.
Our most innovative companies are a perfect model. They are constantly gathering data and measuring results. If something works, they throw money at it. If it doesn’t, they kill it off. For every big success, there are hundreds of smaller failed experiments.
Take Google for example. The founders initially believed their business was a non-profit because they only intended to help professors search for academic research papers online. Ironically, Google became one of the most profitable companies in history. YouTube began as a failed video-dating site. Twitter was a money-losing podcasting company. Slack started as a game no one wanted to play. All of these startups would have died if they didn’t abandon their original ideas and change direction.
The one thing I’ve learned throughout my career is that the original ideas people come up with are almost always flawed. It’s only through the process of challenging every assumption that entrepreneurs figure out the right path forward.
If we’re going to innovate on public policy, we need to take the same approach. We need to take our two-centuries old system and upgrade it. Just like our founding fathers did when they abandoned monarchy for democracy, we must move into the 21st century with a new paradigm and methodologies for how to legislate.
So, where do we start? How can our laws be crafted so that they function more like lean startups? What would an agile framework for legislation look like? What if we could enact a new law for a set period of time and then measure its effectiveness? If the law fails to perform, it goes back to Congress for revisions. If it works, it automatically expands in scope. In other words, can laws be structured to act more like dynamic entities or intelligent algorithms than static directives?
The wonderful thing about a democracy is this type of radical change is possible. The process is embedded in our Constitution. We have the tools to remake the system. We just need to use them. We’ve done this in the past when Jefferson doubled the size of our country, Madison introduced the Bill of Rights, Lincoln abolished slavery, Roosevelt launched the New Deal, and King championed Civil Rights. And we can do it again.
Let’s bring enlightened leadership and innovation back to government. Join us as we transform America into an example the rest of the world can follow.
Captain of Lead America Forward
Photo by Nicola Gypsicola on Unsplash