Vision, Tactics, and Stubbornness

Judgment or Experience?

Many American citizens claim our President needs a strategy and a vision for the future. The most common complaints are about a lack of vision on the economy, health care and in our response to terrorism and the war in Iraq. According to this way of thinking, George Bush has not been up to the task because he lacks a strategy and vision for America’s future. Therefore, we need to a elect a President with demonstrated qualities of vision, foresight, and strategy on issues of importance.

Let’s get real. Most people in America don’t know what the candidates’ “vision is. They aren’t going to the candidates’ websites and searching around to figure out what their so-called vision is. They watch the evening news sound bites or grab bits and pieces as they go. They watch the Presidential debates and decide whether they believe what the candidates say about their own policies and about each other’s policies.

So, basically, we have all developed a kind of shorthand for understanding who has vision and strategy. And it based on our own biases, preferences and preconceptions. We’ve sort of figured out what kind of personality type is likely to have the strategy and vision and we assume that a person with that personality actually does have a vision or strategy.

Yet, we are conflicted here. In the television age, we like candidates who look good and sound good — and that has nothing to do with vision. Moreover, candidates have to be regular Joes; they must speak directly and simply. We have to be able to relate to them — because, despite vast wealth and power, they still clean the house, drive their own car, mow their own grass, bowl 130, and drink beer just like us.

Then again, we like a candidate who is tough-minded. Those are the people who will get up and fight for the ordinary American in good times and bad (or so we like to believe). We don’t need effete, wimpy, private school types who will chicken out at the first sign of trouble.

But, then again, how the hell do we know any of this is true?

Just because someone clears the brush on his property, doesn’t mean he knows a damn thing about why the Shiites and the Shia are at each other’s throats. Just because somebody drinks beer and watches football every week, doesn’t mean they can craft a good health care plan. And just because someone looks good on TV and speaks well in front of a camera doesn’t mean that they will have courage and vision in a time of crisis.

But, you know, a lot of Americans know this.

So they fall back on another short hand. The one of experience. It goes something like this. If Joe has been around the block 15 times, Sally has been around the block 27 times and Greg has been around it 83 times, Greg must know what’s going on better than Sally, who knows what’s what better than Joe. But, is that how things work? Does experience = knowledge and ability?

Certainly not. This is one reason most consulting firms judge their candidates based on hypothetical case interviews – the case studies are designed, not to test for right answers, but rather to determine how well a candidate thinks through to a solution to a new problem.

So, ultimately it is judgment and experience which make the better candidate. Neither is enough alone.

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