I think that startup CEO’s can learn a lot from the four act drama that just played out in Washington DC. Learning from failure is an important concept. In the startup world we are told to embrace failure, or ignore failure. That works as long as we learn from it and admit our mistakes.
In politics, the problem with admitting you are wrong is that you show vulnerability. The other side attacks and in this highly polarized time, the attacks are vicious. People that otherwise are sane are tweeting out statistics they know are skewed just because it fits their argument. If you are the CEO of a startup, you will find strength from vulnerability. They call that emotional intelligence.
The Republicans need to exhibit a little EQ if they are going to pick up the pieces. Unlike the cognoscenti, I think they can resurrect a bill but it’s going to take some humility by the President, the Speaker and his backers, and the Freedom Caucus. If I were the President, I would put Tom Price on the task immediately. I’d take it out of the Speaker’s hands. I’d put something together that will pass and then put it on the Speaker’s desk. Then I’d go through the process.
If you are a CEO of a larger company, sometimes you have to break out of norms. You need to empower, and designate a person that can bust through bureaucracy and get things done.
There were several levels of failure starting with Speaker Paul Ryan. He needed to educate the Freedom Caucus, and the general public on the exact strategy they were going to use to implement repeal and replace. He didn’t get everyone on board before moving. They put too much pressure on this whole first 100 days thing. Professor John Cochrane warned them about that.
Let that be a lesson to startup CEOs that try to do big things. You can sum it up in 140 characters, but you have to take the time to educate all who are affected about the tactics and strategy to get you there. People need to be able to talk through their fears, and really understand. Back in December there were signs the Freedom Caucus was going to be a big problem for Ryan.
In this case because of the media and the Democrats, it was very difficult. But, the Republicans needed to 100% ignore them. Ryan needed to give cover to his people by using his brass knuckles to call the opposing side out when they were wrong. He didn’t. He was too professorial and focused on procedure. The rallying cry of “repeal and replace” was hollow. There wasn’t enough stuff inside it to carry through. Hating on Obama is tinder for a fire. It’s not enough to sustain a movement.
As a startup CEO, you can find dry tinder all the time to get things started. But, you need to appeal to something deeper inside people to sustain a movement. The people you work with need to feel it in their gut.
Trump failed too. He sold himself as the grand bargainer. In business, you can force certain things. In government, you only have the power of the purse to force things. Trump needed to be more active in bringing the Freedom Caucus along. Instead of pivoting, Trump dug in.
As a CEO, you need to check in with people. You need to ask the right questions to get to the root of what they are thinking about. You need to uncover things your employees are uncomfortable with and work through them. Trump didn’t do that with the Freedom Caucus because he was pre-occupied with lots of other things. Additionally, it doesn’t seem like it’s part of his personality.
The Freedom Caucus totally failed. They wanted something pure. However, government isn’t pure. It’s full of compromise. I thought Dr. Feld’s blogpost about repeal and replace was accurate. Sure, it’s a Democratic law and the Democrats are responsible for the spiraling health care costs that are crushing citizen budgets. But, the Freedom Caucus gets to be part owner of the problem now.
As a CEO, you’d love to have a pure product to put in front of your customers. But, sometimes you need to just satisfy them. It just needs to be good enough to ship. You will work out the bugs later. Speed to market is often a lot more important than perfection.
Believe me, I am not a big fan of the GOP establishment. I am for freedom of choice and a lot of competition. Often, the GOPe is at odds with delegating freedom to citizens. Vouchers from government are always better than a one size fits all program. But, the strategy the Republicans were going to use was the fastest, cleanest strategy within the rules of the government.
The other failure was gerrymandering. Gerrymandering of states by both political parties has created a lot of extremists in Congress. My own home state of Illinois is highly gerrymandered. That allows very extreme politicians to get elected that have minority views. My Democratic friends are screaming about gerrymandering in places like Texas. They need to focus on places like Illinois, California and New York where their own party has eliminated political competition.