Lessons from Obama’s governance experience

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Let’s start this blog post with a disclaimer upfront that there is no political linkage or overtone.This is merely an attempt to showcase the macro lessons that may be relevant to any organization around the world.Lessons that resonate and transcend borders and break shackles associated with learning. It is a tribute to the rising class of learners who have the drive to move up the learning ladder and have access to technology.

Lessons from Obamas governance experience

The ‘State of the Union Address’ (SOUA) by the 44th President of the US on January 12, 2016, is a toast to a tradition that began in the 17th century. That was the historic times when technology had not advanced or penetrated to the extent as we see it today. It was the era of George Washington, who had the privilege of giving the first such address in 1789. That opened the doors to a governance report reflecting the economic state under the leadership of the CEO in chair. Parchments of the maiden SOUA and subsequent SOUAs may have made their way into museums as archives to record milestones or collectibles that remain national treasures. Every nation has its share of history to glorify and gloat about. But let’s for a moment, step back and take a pause. Wear the lens of the current times.

Look at the advancements we’ve made, the digital explosion witnessed globally has opened the corridors of learning. Then, are we right to state that learning is now liberated? Democratized? Is learning social?Is learning today a convenience that is powered by technology? Well, if conquering territories in the mind space seemed to be the primary objective, then no less significant is the attempt to earn place in the brain and hearts that are willing to absorb, assimilate, and mull on the information available in the growth journey of life.

The SOUA by the current US CEO comes at a time when social learning needs evangelizing and propagating. Newer and emerging technologies have created a learning architecture that is user-friendly and experiential, taking learning beyond boundaries! The power of collective intelligence, collaborative learning, informal approach, and many more facets are available to the framework of learning that is constantly evolving. The power of mobility and the ability to access learning on demand – anytime and anywhere and on devices of one’s choice augurs well for those in the learning domain – be it as a consumer, a producer, or an enterprise.


Learning context from State of the union address

Before the all-pervasive technology embrace, could anyone have imagined that a transcript of a country CEO’s speech, especially an SOUA, would be available with uncontrolled access? Forget that. What about the immediacy of response? Bouquet or brickbat is for the world to see – a social environment that is transparent enough to establish a unique connect that was not possible in the pre-internet era! The strides in innovation by technologists and all the other stakeholders in this sphere cannot be kept aside. They merit a position that keeps pushing the benchmark of learning and keeps us growing at a pace that makes scaling of higher peaks possible!

Now, the text of the current SOUA may be 6,000-plus words put together by great minds with of course the leader taking charge of what he wants to say or convey. Mind you, this time it is an address that has the essence of 8 years’ experience in governance. We will confine ourselves to the sub-text with a focus only on the lessons that organizations could take away. Take it or leave it is a choice that democratized and experiential learning offers. So, let’s now pick and choose parts that are relevant from a learning context.

  • We live in a time of extraordinary change — change that’s reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet, our place in the world. Change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but also economic disruptions that strain working families.Change that can broaden opportunity, or widen inequality. And whether we like it or not, the pace of this change will only accelerate.
  • Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future, who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, who promised to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears. We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the dogmas of the quiet past. Instead we thought anew and acted anew.
  • We made change work for us, always extending America’s promise outward, to the next frontier, to more people. And because we did, because we saw opportunity where others saw peril, we emerged stronger and better than before.
  • What was true then can be true now. Our unique strengths as a nation — our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery, our diversity, our commitment to rule of law — these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come.
  • But such progress is not inevitable. It’s the result of choices we make together. And we face such choices right now. Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, turning against each other as a people? Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, in what we stand for, and the incredible things we can do together?
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Again, to allow the learning conversation, it is imperative that relevant information in the domain of learning be presented so that a complete picture of the road ahead is possible. We will only list below three of the four big questions that the CEO brought up.

  • First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?
  • Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us, especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?
  • Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?

Look at some data points shared by the CEO: “We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history. More than 14 million new jobs, the strongest two years of job growth since the 1990s, an unemployment rate cut in half. Our auto industry just had its best year ever.That’s just part of a manufacturing surge that’s created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years.And we’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters.Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction.”

At this juncture, the CEO concedes that people are anxious about economic changes that started before the Great Recession (sounds like Great Depression?).He says: “Today, technology doesn’t just replace jobs on the assembly line, but any job where work can be automated. Companies in a global economy can locate anywhere, and they face tougher competition.”

Emphatically he says “We’ve made progress, but we need to make more…we agree that real opportunity requires every American to get the education and training they need to land a good-paying job.” Sounds like continuous improvement is what works to develop skills, right? It is now universally accepted that there is nothing like hands-on training and exposure. With such a strategy, there is every possibility that job-readiness is available on day one! “We should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids. Americans understand that at some point in their careers, in this new economy, they may have to retool, they may have to retrain, but they shouldn’t lose what they’ve already worked so hard to build in the process,” he surmises.

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The rules of work are changing. Private enterprises and the entrepreneurial zeal are driving growth. Little wonder that the CEO says: “The point is, I believe, that in this new economy, workers and start-ups and small businesses need more of a voice, not less. The rules should work for them.”

The concluding part of this blog post will deal with some more lessons that reinforce the power of collective intelligence.


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