Like all the readers, i too simply loved this post by Nathaniel Whittemore at change.org, and am taking the liberty to copy it here. I surely wish i could govern like this and i am sure most of my colleagues at CCS would see great value in this approach. Don’t miss the last point about ideology and impact.
“When I think about what I really wish for the Obama administration, it’s that they bring the spirit of a startup to the White House. To me, that means five key things (plus one foundational bonus).
5. Do more with less
With the pressure of financial failure constantly looming, startups – social enterprise or pure business – need to be lean. In fact, according to famed venture capitalist and Paypal founder Peter Theil, low CEO pay is the best predictor of startup success. I’m not suggesting that government employees get a big pay cut. But, you don’t have to subscribe to any one particular ideology to recognize that the federal budget is bloated and filled with pet projects, tax loopholes, and budget sinkholes that drain resources from more pressing issues.
4. Harnessing your team’s talent around a meaningful mission
People love jobs with a sense of mission. For many, government service no longer feels like a good way to change the world. That’s a bummer, because there’s a lot of talented people who would be thrilled to contribute if they felt their capacity would really be harnessed rather than just shoved in a cubicle to languish. Restoring the sense of purpose and actually fully utilizing people’s abilities is key.
3. Find the right partners
Successful startups don’t do everything. They know their core missions and integrate partners or service providers for everything else. The government not only can’t do everything, it shouldn’t do everything. Every challenge we face, from education to climate change, will be solved only through a combination of business, civil society, government, and the contributions of average people. The Obama administration can and should be a convener that brings together these various actors around our most pressing problems.
2. Learn from everything
Successful startups are sponges of information. Whether its learning from the competition or being inspired to think differently by a random article, successful entrepreneurs tend to always have some part of their mind filtering and assimilating new knowledge. Our government must have the capacity to learn – from business, from civil society, from other governments, and from the real lived experience of its citizens. Initiatives like the Citizen’s Briefing Book are a great start.
1. Iterate and scale success
Perhaps the key characteristic of a successful startup is agility. Because of their comparatively smaller teams and shorter institutional histories, young companies tend to have an easier time responding to changing environments. I would love to see the Obama team embrace a spirit of iteration, where lots of promising ideas are attempted – even if its on a small scale, and sometimes through partners rather than directly by the White House itself – and the best are taken to scale through policy. By way of example, there’s education. How many more examples of successful innovation like the longer schedules of the KIPP schools do we need before we see a local or national administration try to embed some of those lessons in public policy.
BONUS: Impact over ideology
Finally, and most importantly, it’s important to remember that the primary responsibility of any government is the safety and prosperity of all of its citizens. There will, necessarily, be ideological battles to come. But where possible, the primary allegiance of the government should be to impact, not ideology. At the end of the day, I don’t care whether Republicans or Democrats have the silver bullet for issues like education – I want better schools where more students have the chance to live up to their full potential. Period.
It doesn’t take much back-reading to tell how excited I am about the promise of President Barack Obama. I think he embodies the American spirt of community organizing and social entrepreneurship that runs back through people like Jane Addams. I think that he will be a partner to social entrepreneurs. But I think the challenges he faces are as monumental as we’ve seen in decades. And if President Obama really can bring the spirit of a startup to the White House, lets just hope it’s the next Google.