Dear Mr. or Madam President: The U.S. Needs to Be a Learning Organization

Today is probably the most important day in U.S. history in many decades. Unless you are living off-planet, you know most voters will go to the polls to elect a new president. We won’t be electing just any president this year. We’ll be electing a human to solve super-human problems. No matter who takes the Oval Office, they will be called on to solve crazy big issues:  gross overspending, slow growth, rising rates of poverty and disenfranchisement, and the immediate threat of a global nuclear war.

For the first time in decades, the electorate has a clear choice. While some call this year’s candidates divisive, I think it is a healthy sign that we have departed from traditional Frick-and-Frack politics. The stark differences between the two major party candidates goes well beyond male and female. Their vastly different styles and philosophies have given people in the U.S. clear, distinct paths to really think about the nation’s direction forward. The most important part of that sentence is that people are thinking about the path forward. People are thinking about solutions and they are passionate about their ideas. Nobody denies we are in need of a new direction and people are excited about it.

Now, to harness all this great energy to clear a path forward.

U.S. Department of Human Potential

Great organizations today are learning organizations. As our country thinks about how to solve our problems, we need to consider techniques used by the most successful organizations. Today, all great organizations are learning organizations – they preserve and manage knowledge, develop talent and encourage innovation. The U.S. is already doing some of those things with some innovative initiatives.

Just as companies appoint a Chief Information Officer to the C-suite, recently our country installed a national CIO to oversee the big picture and direction of our national IT infrastructure. Following that lead, the new U.S. president should consider creating a national cabinet level Chief Learning Officer to combine and replace the outdated Departments of Labor and Education. A national CLO would oversee our efforts to develop human potential as a critical national priority just as leading companies are installing CLOs in the C-suite. And by combining the Departments of Education and Labor, we recognize that our citizens are continually learning, growing and contributing at every stage of life.

The reason we need a U.S. Department of Human Potential is simple: Human productivity is the core of every nation’s wealth.

Gold Is a Proxy for Human Productivity

Some financiers might say the country with the most gold wins. That is only partially true. Gold is a proxy for wealth, and true wealth is the full development and use of a country’s human potential. A country might be rich in mineral wealth but that is usually concentrated among a few. For stable societies based on broad income distribution, real wealth is about people reaching their full potential. All people, and that includes not just factory workers and corporate executives, but artists and actors and software entrepreneurs. Everybody wins when all participants in the great human tapestry are able to fully contribute as value is exchanged among them.

The hard work and ingenuity of U.S. citizens and immigrants in the early 20th Century led to the largest social expansions of education, access to health and leisure time in history. The well-educated and healthy populace created wealth that it then, quite accidentally, squandered by offshoring too much of the work to other countries. The countries that accepted the opportunities to do the work have prospered and, in fact, have accumulated most of the gold as a result of their decision to maximize their human potential (see China).

This isn’t to ignore the low-wages and poor working conditions that often proliferated in those countries where sweat shops harnessed human labor like animals. Let me suggest that as hard physical labor is being replaced by robotics, those conditions can be corrected.

What I am suggesting here is that the countries that maximize their human potential also eventually become the most prosperous, which is why I stated that gold is a proxy for human productivity. And that is exactly why we need a national CLO to help direct the development of our human potential.

Science and technological advances will allow dangerous jobs under poor working conditions to go the way of the dodo bird. But first, we need to turn our national attention to building our most precious resource, our people.

From that, social stability, prosperity and peace can follow.

What is your company doing to preserve and enhance its expertise so you are part of the next great wave of prosperity?


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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