The sunlight of summer has begun it’s annual transition to equinox, and we are all reviving the pulse of the work-year.The President has returned from Martha’s Vineyard to face what will surely be a challenging fall. It’s mid-term election season and the mood of the voting public is downright ornery.
ODS (Obama Disappointment Syndrome) a growing wave of depression, has created a huge anti-incumbent wave. “Throw ‘em all out!” seems to be the mantra of the season.
In the last couple of weeks the number of negative op-eds on the President from both sides of the aisle have grown considerably. The mildest theme seems to be “he is too smart to be in touch with the people,” or “we just don’t know who you are or what you really are about Mr. President.” The really challenging ones drift into the inevitable issues of racism.
I have long held that the most qualified people to be in government are business folk. Not just Billionaires like Mayor Bloomberg, but anyone who has successfully run anything, been responsible for making payrolls, paying back loans, paying bills on time, navigating through good times and bad. Most important: balancing a budget. But the reality is most people who have these credentials are too smart to get sucked into the dysfunction of the public sector. Nor will they submit themselves to the relentless intrusion and scrutiny of the press. So what’s the next best thing for the “beleaguered” President? Take some lessons from the guys who know how to really get things done. And who better than the best CEO in the Universe: Steve Jobs.
So Mr. President, in an effort to help you succeed, herewith is a new playbook for your consideration:
1. You have to make other people cool. Being cool got you elected because it made people feel cool electing you. But then nothing much else happened. You thought healthcare would be the cool thing but dramatically misread your audience. Steve makes millions of people cool, it is his most amazing talent. Buy an iPhone and you are cool. But if you don’t have a job, you have no chance of being cool. And the Healthcare plan? No one is cool with it (outside of DC).
2. Get citizens to voluntarily pay more taxes. Apple has been doing this for years. Customers happily fork over a big premium for their products. They will even camp overnight outside an Apple store to have the privilege of doing it first. We have a huge debt problem. In Europe everyone pays a VAT (Value Added Tax). Apple has a CAT (Coolness Added Tax). Watch and learn Barack. You just have to figure out what it is the Federal Government does that’s cool, or useful, or is of particular benefit to anyone.
3. Replace Congress with a Genius Bar. The current spin is that the Republicans are obstructionist. But if there are Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, how could that possibly prevent you from bringing “Change we can believe in?” The answer is that Congress just isn’t smart enough. Sure these are fine, well-intentioned people but we need really super-smart folks to fix our dysfunctional system. Steve Jobs figured out that even people savvy enough to buy Apple products were going to have problems now and then, and he wasn’t going to subject them to someone you’d find working at the Division of Motor Vehicles. He recruited an army of Geniuses. So why not forget about political party affiliations and just support the election of Geniuses.
4. Wear the same outfit every day. I know it sounds trite but you probably have figured out it takes a lot of brain cycles to be POTUS. Why waste any time trying to pick out a slick Armani and matching tie (or arguing with the First Lady about HER selection). Steve’s turtleneck and jeans thing has worked for 30 years now because it sends a simple clear message “all I care about is making insanely great products.” You could be transmitting “all I care about is improving your life, making a better America.”
5. You can’t be afraid of pissing people off. Probably your biggest Freshman error has been to try and make everyone happy. Yes you passed a Healthcare bill but it didn’t take on the tough issues (Tort reform, insurance rate controls). You decided we needed to “surge” in Afghanistan but also announced we’d only do it for a little while, so as not to over-irritate all of the antiwar constituency who voted you into office. Steve Jobs takes on the tough issues. He decided that Adobe’s Flash, one of the most widely used media formats on the Internet, sucks and that was that. iPhone and iPad don’t support it. So I can’t view half of the stuff on the WWW on my iPad; but I still have one. Take a real stand on something President Obama and live with the fact that to be effective you are going to make some people angry. As long as there are more happy people then angry people you’ll have a second term.
6. Vision without execution is nothing. We elected you because you understood how frustrated we were with DC Dysfunction. You had a vision for “not a Red America or Blue America but a United States of America.” You said you would bring change to Washington. True you never said you’d make DC “Insanely Great” or “Magical” but you presented your campaign vision with compelling Jobsian conviction. Yet, the partisan aisles are wider than ever. No one seems to want to solve problems, they are just obsessed with maintaining or regaining their majority. Steve Jobs has a saying: “there are two types of people in the world: those who have shipped products and those who haven’t.” Steve has shipped more Innovative products over the last 30 years than any other tech executive. The lesson here? Get rid of all of the professors, policy wonks, career bureaucrats, and Chicago thugs and convince some real capitalist operational executives to come work for you (even if you hate the way we smell).
7. Build a little intrigue. Tell us something big is coming. Set a date for a big presentation. Leak a little here and there to tease. Cut all the deals behind the scenes so Congress backs you. Then get on stage and tell us all about our shiny new Healthcare Widget. We won’t mind what’s missing because we’ll know it’s just 1.0 and your bound to have a bunch of improvements next year and it will be much cheaper too.
8. Make us USA Fanboys. Right after the election it was fun to be an American again, especially while traveling abroad. Europeans in particular were not Bush fans and we took a big hit in our image. Electing you made the World feel good. But the bloom has quickly faded. No one can figure out what you really stand for. We are straddled with debt, and seem to be losing our innovative edge. We can’t even give our kids a decent education. Apple went through bad times prior to Steve Job’s comeback. It lost it’s Mojo. But Steve returned with laser like focus. The company’s back was against the wall and he put forth a simple proposition. He said they would only do two things and had to make them spectacular to survive. He thew away all of the previously bloated, PC-like Macs and introduced the first iMac and iBook. They were a hit. That led to iPod. Which led to iPhone. Which led to legions of proud Apple Fans. And most important huge financial success. All due respect President Obama, we need to focus on innovation and education. If we are not giving our children the best and nurturing our innate Yankee ingenuity, we will never create jobs and return to prosperity. It’s hard to feel patriotic pride when your house is being repossessed.
9. When all else fails. Blame it on us stupid Americans. We just don’t get it. We don’t need to access our iTunes library on more than five computers. Calls dropping on our brand new iPhone4? We are holding it the wrong way! Go to the Genius bar and Apple will give you a rubber and show you how to practice safe iPhone4. Mr. President, Yes you can to bring change to Washington, but everyone else is going to have to want to change too. If they won’t play ball, make it crystal clear that they are the morons and send them to a Genius Bar for help. Well actually looks like the voters are going to do that for you in November.
The final lesson is that passion and persistence against all adversity will pay off. After all of the adoration bestowed during the campaign, it must be horrible to have to endure the current spate of negative press. But hey, Steve was summarily thrown out of his own company, thrashed around for a bunch of years trying to get NeXT to be something. Perhaps it was a dose of humility that helped polish his edges a bit but he never lost his passion or focus. His return and turnaround of Apple is now epic. And the story is really just beginning. So President Barack Obama, can you turn it around and become an epic President? One for the history books? Take a lesson from Apple. It’s all about Jobs.