ANNOUNCEMENT

While Americans continue to be frustrated by the administration, the media, and Congress, no one has asked the people in the system how to fix these very problems. No one has asked the 2.4 million executive branch employees what is happening on the inside.

But what if we designed solutions from within the branch? What if we listened to the true experts in the U.S. Government?

I was an Innovation Fellow and scientist that was brought into the executive branch to address these root issues. Though not often recognized, innovation in the U.S. Government has historically impacted 60% of economic growth, enabled the superior capabilities of our defense program, and solved problems facing our nation ranging from healthcare to the arts. But now, we need to modernize the executive branch for the 21st century and unify this nation for the future. The question is: How?

I believe we need to focus building a nation ready for the future and to do that, we need to first fix the chaotic and locked government systems, empower Americans by re-imagining the U.S. education system, and develop programs in the executive branch that address the impacts of digitization, automation, and globalization. It may sound like a daunting task but I spent the last two years organizing teams of people both on the inside and outside of the federal government. This extensive list of contributors helped write two official government books: Innovating Government and Modernizing Learning. The first is essentially a president’s management agenda and the second is ostensibly a national education strategy – something this country has never seen.

The next step in my journey is to take to the streets – across all 50 states, to be exact. There is so much information that isn’t reaching Americans and it’s time to give a voice not only to executive branch employees but also to highlight talent, energy, and capabilities that exist across the country. We believe it doesn’t take an act of Congress to fix the country, it just takes a lot of dedicated Americans to work together.

On June 1st, I and a team of energetic Americans will embark on a 50-state Ready Nation National Tour. We will be highlighting innovative ideas, activism, and tools that when combined support resilience and readiness in creating education for the future, 21st century healthcare, a modernized defense force, environmental rebuilding, and global employment capabilities. By combining ideas from across the country with system knowledge from the inside, we aim to create solutions that will be fully implementable.

Our goal is to create an extended team of Americans from every state, in every area, that when connected, create the solutions that help us become a nation ready for the future!

Modernizing America

Let’s start by asking the question: What does it mean to modernize the country?

Modernizing a nation involves making holistic changes across our most fundamental national focus areas so that the country, at its foundation, is anchored in systems ready for the 21st century.

Metaphorically, it’s like looking at a house that was built in 1900 which then received continuous updates in electrical, plumbing, added bathrooms, and redone kitchens…but which still has low ceilings, a boxy construction layout, has an awkward flow due to the multiple piecemeal changes, and is based on building codes from the past that are not ready for today’s threats.

At some point, it is no longer reasonable and more importantly, it is not wise, to keep making small edits. Rather, it becomes necessary to tear down the old and rebuild using a modernized design.

So what does this look like at the national level? It is easy enough to imagine a tangible thing like a house that gets demolished and rebuilt. But a whole nation? Where would you even begin? There are so many moving parts: human systems, business and market systems, government, academia, environment, and defense. But even that isn’t enough – because then there are the disagreements about how to achieve the changes to these systems that creates political and decision making issues that can undo any element at any time. Further, how do you even find a visionary that can create – more importantly, that wants to create – such a system-level, holistic national change?

The answer is: You don’t. No one person can do this alone. Instead, it has to be a group effort – a nationally coordinated plan that incorporates the best and the brightest people and ideas across the country – and then executes together.

To say this is a daunting task, is a supreme understatement. And yet….it is a necessary task.

Here are my recommended steps:

  1. Conduct a full review of the executive branch and its connections to the legislative and judicial branches, academia, Americans, businesses, and internationally. This review should be aimed at finding brilliance – or those groups/people/systems that are working well. Doing so will allow for replication and sharing across the system.
  2. Determine and re-imagine the most fundamental system that creates the tools for the necessary redesign: Education. Our education system is what underlies everything, what makes progress possible. It needs to be life long, emphasize American personal exceptionalities, and be aimed at providing Americans the tools they need to be successful cognitively, emotionally, socially, and physically.
  3. Connect issues and ideas across the nation – We need to connect the parts of the nation where great things are happening to those areas in need and all of it needs to be better facilitated by government (not regulated).
  4. Execute – plan the work; work the plan – the nation needs to unify to modernize!

We are a nation not build by any single entity. Diversity and creativity are our strengths because together, we can accomplish anything!

Photo by Sophie Potyka William Zhang William Zhang on Unsplash

Laws and Design

In a recent tweet, a senator shared with the nation a new bill being proposed to help regulate and control those that exploit the medical system. But the response from many Americans was very negative – not because they dislike this person based on political party but rather, because it appeared the person hadn’t done their homework about how the bill would affect multiple communities. In other words, this bill would help solve one issue and simultaneously create another.

For all the resources our congress has and in spite of most of them being there to help, rather than harm, Americans – how does this happen?

My experience on the Hill may shed some light. As an executive branch employee, I was amazed by how difficult it was to get information to/from Americans and Congress. When we had the opportunity to attend discussions with lawmakers, we quickly learned that they weren’t very interested in what anyone was creating/building/developing for Americans – what they cared about were dollars and cents…and particularly, how that money was being spent in their districts. Government programs were literally showing maps of the U.S. to highlight where dollars were being expended and then I watched as lawmakers gravitated to only those programs in their districts. I learned many, many lessons through these observations.

A second lesson was learned when talking with staffers – these are the people that help the congress people do, basically, everything. When asked how they decide to write a bill or vote on a bill, the overwhelming answer was: we google for information, we ask around our staff (who was generally an average reported age of about 25), and we try to determine the number of people in our district that will be happy or unhappy about the vote. When asked why they don’t ask the executive branch’s expert in the areas in which they vote – they said they don’t have access and wouldn’t know who to ask.

The punchline here is this: When Congress approves a budget, the executive branch spends the money to either a) provide services to/on behalf of Americans or b) investigate (research/innovate/problem solve) solutions….yet almost none of this information circulates back to Congress to ultimately improve national decision making.

Why?

*Photo by Helloquence Hey Beauti Magazine on Unsplash

Where’s the power?

I just finished a tour in the executive branch of
the U.S. Government and one of the questions I really wanted to better
understand is: where is power centralized? We all assume it’s within the
congress, the president, vice president, and cabinet. But in total, there are
only 552 people in that group. However, across, the executive branch, there are
2.4 million workers.

We don’t hear from these people and they don’t hear from us or even from congress.

Indeed, in order to get or send information from/to congress, executive branch workers must send information through legislative affairs. Imagine you are one of these workers and you are congressionally mandated to “create a sports program” (just an example). Which sport will you choose? What age group? How many teams will you set up? How will you hold tryouts? Will you even have tryouts? What plan do you have for the people who don’t make the team but feel they were supposed to? You can’t have access to an attorney very easily and it’s not in your mandate but still, what if someone sues because they didn’t make the team? How do you make the tryouts fair? Transparent? Account for all special needs and accommodations? What if you don’t know anything about sports? Or about injuries? Or about legal issues? Or about accommodations?

When you can’t share information, ask questions, or
even work with others who have expertise you need – you are left to guess, do
your best, and hope you keep your job. The wisest course of action is to not
get noticed in these situations because if your teams make the news, you’ll get
no reward – congress will. If your teams make the news with problems, you’ll
lose your job.

When we put our government workers in a vice, the system itself, by design, handicaps brilliance.

We need to reconsider the talent support we give our government workers and hold our elected officials responsible for ensuring that the management of the executive branch is a meaningful part of the presidential discussions. If we don’t address these issues, the power of change will be lost in the design of the system and we will forever be scratching our heads about why the government isn’t meeting our needs as we would hope.

Photo by Ferdinand Stöhr and Florian Hahn on Unsplash