A couple weeks back, while in one of my more morose moments, I read the NYTimes Sunday Review first. To my surprise, I was wonderfully rewarded with “No one wants to hear everything that’s in your head. They just want you to live up to what comes out of your mouth.” So concluded Adam Grant in his opinion piece, “Unless You’re Oprah, ‘Be Yourself’ is Terrible Advice.”
Grant’s piece was a perfect example of what’s possible when you enter the Rumination Paradox. Exploring and contrasting authenticity and sincerity, Grant applied them to generational differences, cited Oprah, and quoted a writer dude who experimented some time ago by telling his nanny that he’d ask her on a date if his wife divorced him and admitting to a woman he was meeting that he looked down her blouse. No word on if writer dude is still married.
The past year has witnessed an unprecedented deluge of nonsensical, unbelievable, and largely unachievable political rhetoric, with a correspondingly absurd amount of verbal diarrhea masquerading as breaking news and informed analysis. My 11 yr old daughter, a budding centrist, often looks at me quizzically, shakes her head, and says, “Dad, if only they’d do what you always tell me – ‘Say what you mean, do what you say, but if you never open your mouth, people will never know how stupid you are.’”
In the two policy arenas of most interest to me, foreign affairs and the innovation economy, the rhetoric has been disappointing, to say the least. Putting foreign policy aside, neither of the two presumptive nominees has articulated a detailed policy agenda to spur technological innovation in the United States.
Donald Trump has posted policy prescriptions for very few issues, none of which touch specifically on technology innovation. As a businessman and entrepreneur, one can only hope he’d prioritize it within his administration. Draw your own conclusions about whether Trump means and does what he says, but he certainly doesn’t refrain from opening his mouth.
Similarly, the proof will be in the pudding for Hillary Clinton. Contrary to her opponent, Hillary has posted policy prescriptions for over 30 issues. Technology innovation, however, is only mentioned in pursuit of clean energy, where she proposes expanding ARPA-e, a $60B Clean Energy Challenge, and other initiatives. Her small business platform does recognize the importance of entrepreneurship, but binds it tightly to generic, rote small business policy prescriptions. The vehicles she identifies to accomplish this agenda are politically contentious, easily manipulated to gerrymander results, focused on main street, or all of the above.
The one intriguing and potential bright spot in her proposed agenda is to “provide incubators, mentoring, and training to 50,000 entrepreneurs and small business owners…”. I’m withholding judgment because the rest of that … is “in underserved communities.” Of course underserved communities need support. As a volunteer board member and entrepreneur in residence for Sustainable Startups, a majority of whose clients are from underserved communities, I’m personally vested in such work, walking the walk. But, I can also tell you that the underserved are not the only ones who need and will benefit from entrepreneurship incubators, mentoring, and training.
Bottom line, the Russian proverb that President Reagan expropriated still holds. Doveryai no proveryai. In a future post, I’ll outline my own idea for injecting some real energy into this space.