07 December 2007

Don't Talk - Simulate

As part of the on-going experiment I call life, today I offer you a multimedia editorial - opinion and music. (Scroll down to "Don't Talk" Video.)
If you want to cross the room, you'll walk. If you want to cross town, you'll drive. If you want to cross the country, you'll fly. We've figured out that, when it comes to transportation, it's worth changing tools when we change the scope of our travels.

We've yet to figure this out when it comes to communication and planning. When you want to plan lunch, you talk. If executives want to plan next year's goals and activities, they talk. If politicians want to lead us into the next decade, they talk.

I imagine that there are quite a few reasons that our politics have entered a stage of such widespread discontent. We've learned from advertisers that progress comes from discontentment, and in this age of unprecedented affluence, we may well suffer from unprecedented levels of discontentment. We have little power over the policies we vote on - getting to choose at the end rather than getting involved in crafting a choice. All these and more could be reasonably pointed to as reasons for the discontent in politics. But I suggest that there is one more reason.

Kids who have to travel across the room don't usually grumble about walking. Make them travel across town by foot and they play a different tune. In our choices of politicians and policies, we continually confront the question (implied or explicit) of longer term consequences. Few can think through the fall of the dominoes very far. (My friend and occasional commentator Norman says that studies indicate that 85% of the population is unable to follow or explain if, then logic.) No wonder the polity is grumbling.

The real political leadership is going to come from the people who find ways to popularize simulation tools that credibly assist folks in planning the future. In my job, we work with project teams to plan their future, developing new products. This process inevitably reveals flaws in their current plans that would not have occurred to them without the use of our process and tool. Future implications too quickly become too complex to properly influence our present actions - unless we have tools to reveal these problems. This is even more so in the realm of politics, an area far more complex than product development. The political leadership that matters in this century will be leadership that brings us beyond talk - or, rather, gives us more than talk. Literally. It will be leadership that gives us tools to help us to create our joint future.

And, to close on this point, I'll take you to Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs performing the song, "Don't Talk." Natalie does not just have an incredible voice, look like that beautiful neo-bohemian that at once enticed and intimidated all the boys in college, and write lyrics that go down like poetry. She dances like the little girl next door who doesn't know anyone is watching. If that doesn't grab your heart by the lapels and give it a twirl on the dance floor, then you really do need your break this weekend.


ThomasLB said...

That's going to be a tough sell.

Scientists are trying to use simulations to convince the public that global warming is real and caused by excessive CO2, but there's a significant segment of the population that flatly rejects their computer models.

If you try and use computer simulations to convince people about health care or terrorism, where the data will be much fuzzier by it's nature, it's going to be even harder.

Anonymous said...

For clarity, according to Jaques' research data (see Table 13.1, p.188 of "The Life and Behavior of Living Organisms")less than 15% of the human population is capable of using serial if-then logic with "symbolic" language (the kind most people use in the workplace).

The number is more like 99% for "concrete" language, but less than 1% for "abstract" language.