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Biden Needs a Transformation Team More than a Transition Team

You can't solve a transformational problem with transactional solutions

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Shortly after it became clear that Joe Biden had won the Presidential election, CNN Chief Political Analyst, Gloria Borger, opined that he will need to create a transformational team more than a transitional team.

It was one of the many lines that political pundits throw away in their commentary, but that one landed for me and stuck.

She may not have known it, but why her statement was so important is that it supports the notion that you can’t solve a transformational problem with transactional solutions. And merely forming a team who will be at the ready to battle transactionally across the aisle and make little progress is just not going to cut it given the multiple crises from the pandemic, to the looming real economic crisis (not merely what’s reflected in the stock market), to systemic racism, to climate change.

Perhaps I am being pessimistic, but the notion of a “win win” solution appears to me becoming more and more like an idealized “unicorn.”

Increasingly, compromise is becoming synonymous with capitulation and the fervent determination to “not lose” is becoming more powerful than a desire to win.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand how vigorous and rigorous debate and healthy competition spawns innovation and progress. However if all that innovation and progress – uninformed by values – are so great, why is it that our feverish drive for quantity and having to win at all costs has not kept pace with the lessening of quality in our lives, our relationships, our sense of well being and even our sense of hope?

Perhaps the more important question is, what can we do about it?

Since living in a transactional world so easily deteriorates into a collective “zero sum” game – as in Pelosi vs. McConnell, yadda, yadda, yadda – in which there are no long term winners, perhaps the time has come to transform it.

The formula to transforming the world is: Future + Past – Present = Transformation

In 1962 JFK delivered and created the notion of a Moonshot when he said, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

That and other Moonshot declarations can certainly transcend a transactionally gridlocked present and have three components:

  1. There needs to be a deadline, “Before this decade is out”
  2. It needs to be audacious, “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth”
  3. And it needs to be currently impossible, which is what makes it a Moonshot.

Such a declaration of purpose as what would become the Apollo Moon Mission was something so grand that it enabled feisty, headstrong, uncooperative aerospace engineers to pull together in order to be part of history, if not part of science fiction in their lifetime.

What might our “Before this decade is out” (and we have ten years which is two more than the Apollo mission had) Moonshot be? What could we achieve that would have that deadline, be audacious and be currently impossible?

We should all weigh in on that and see what shared common vision we would come up with that would energize and galvanize all special interests and silos to pull in the same direction.

I’ll offer one of my own to get the ball rolling, but please feel free to disregard it and share your own.

I love my children and absolutely adore my grandchildren.  And I don’t think I am alone in those feelings for children and grandchildren.

In fact I so adore my grandchildren that my Moonshot would be creating a world where my grandchildren’s children – who I won’t live to see – will be born into a world where they can realistically have trust, confidence, feel safe and hope for a great life and future.

Because if those great grandchildren are born into a world where they can’t have any of those, then why did I bring them into a miserable world just so I could have a few years of enjoying them as a distraction from my getting older and becoming irrelevant?

Regarding, “Before this decade is out,” my great grandchildren will not be born for at least twenty five years, when in all likelihood, I’ll be gone. However if we could collectively commit to the vision of a world into which they will be born where they feel trust, confidence, safety and hope, I could envision that we could be well on our way to building that imagined world by the time this decade is over.

Where does the “past” part of the transformaton formula come into play?

In order to move into such a transformed future, much less even consider one, we’re going to go from that future and zip past the transactionally (grid)locked present and into our past and unlock our fears, skepticism, cynicism and deep beliefs that it could never happen which could stop us from even beginning on such a journey.

To do that would require our collective psyche going back and realizing that whatever happened to us does not have to control what we do going forward.

A colleague of mine shared a great technique that has helped me free myself from such past fears and negativity. Instead of giving in to “it will never work” pessimism, I pause and say to myself, “Up until now, I have believed that whatever I try will never work out, but going forward that isn’t have to apply.”

There are many other ways to unlock us from our pasts so that we can collectively move towards a “before the decade is over” Moonshot.

What would be your Moonshot for the future and what would be your way to free yourself from the past so that collectively they can inform the present and possibly disabuse it of its transactional myopia.

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