Jan 13 2017

Disruptive politics

Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen coined the term “disruptive innovation” in 1995, describing a process by which something new replaces an established product or service and shakes up the industry or creates a completely new industry.  According to WhatIs.com, disruptive innovation lacks refinement, often has performance problems, appeals to a limited audience and may not necessarily have a proven practical application.  Typical examples are Alexander Graham Bell’s “electrical speech machine” – today’s telephone; personal computers displacing the typewriter; and email displacing letter-writing.

It appears President-elect Donald Trump defines “disruptive politics.”  Compared to eloquent President Obama, Mr. Trump’s presentation style clearly lacks refinement; he is distracted easily and evidences initial performance problems in governance capabilities, having never worked in government; and he relies on Twitter’s 140 characters to speak to his audience—not the most practical means to communicate complex policy positions.

Mr. Trump doesn’t care.  When you’re disruptive, something new is being created to cut through the politics-as-usual agenda.

California’s leaders need to be mindful of this, particularly as this state has specialized in disruptive innovation.  It’s easy to threaten litigation, incite media headlines and hire expert Washington, DC lawyers.  It’s harder to govern and negotiate in a changing political environment.  But California is highly dependent upon federal dollars—paid by California taxpayers into the federal system and expected to be returned—for healthcare, air quality improvements, transportation, housing, education—every basic human need.  Saber rattling works in the traditional political spectrum.  Now, however, the rules may be changing before us.

Mr. Trump knows business and how to deal.  California knows government and how to command and control.  In disruptive politics, Adapting to a new way of political engagement, and Connecting with research, data and education, are more likely to result in Transformation and those substantial federal dollars needed to protect and benefit California.

Written by Lucy Dunn, president and ceo, OCBC

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