Before looking to the “supercommittee’s” dilemma, let’s look back to the Bob Dole/Jack Kemp 1996 campaign, which posted the following on their Web site:
“America now has a national debt of more than $5 trillion dollars. That’s enough money to buy a new car for every man, woman, and child in the country. In other words, every baby born in America today starts off nearly $20,000 in debt.
Balancing the federal budget is essential, absolutely essential, to real and lasting economic growth. In 1995, the federal government paid over $230 billion in interest on the national debt. Today, nearly 40 cents of every dollar the federal government collects in personal income taxes goes to pay interest on the national debt. We now pay nearly as much in interest as we do for all law enforcement, education, environment, energy, transportation, agriculture, and technology programs combined. And every dollar spent on interest is a dollar that cannot be spent on making our streets safer, our environment cleaner, or our schools stronger.”
Fiscal catastrophe has been around the corner, on and off, for 15 years. In that period, Dole and President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, came together to produce a record-breaking $230 billion surplus. That was later depleted by actions undertaken by both sides, bringing us to the tense situation we have today.
So, before we answer the question of how to innovate under the clock, it’s important to establish how serious that clock really is.
Several factors indicate that it’s pretty serious. Our national debt has nearly tripled in the past 15 years to more than $15 trillion dollars. Now, Republicans and Democrats must work together again, like Dole and Clinton, to establish the future direction of the country and stabilize the economy before investors lose confidence, interest rates skyrocket and all discretionary spending is crowded out by interest and entitlements. Because of the giant deficit the federal government is running, the longer we wait, the harder the problem will be to solve.
What does this have to do with innovation?
As the profession of innovation management matures, we are learning a few key things, including that constraints can be a good thing — and the “supercommittee” clock is a big constraint. Given this, what is the best strategy when you need to innovate in a hurry?
When innovating under the gun, the first thing you must do is assemble a small, diverse team to own and attack the challenge. The “supercommittee” team is handicapped from the start, since it is neither small (think 4-5 people) nor diverse (neither in age nor expertise). Second, successful innovators envision what success looks like and pursue it single-mindedly – failure is not an option.