In my role as a business consultant, I am often asked to provide solutions to highly complex problems. Recently, a large, politically well-connected agricultural business paid me a fortune to provide them with a five-year plan on how to best allocate their assets, capital and human resources in order to maximize profitability. The complexity of the business challenges involved were overwhelming, and I almost despaired of being able to provide them with a solution. The night before my big presentation, however, I suddenly remembered a central lesson I had learned in my political science classes. Armed with inspiration, I scribbled down a complete and total six-step solution, slept well, and presented my answer at the Board of Directors meeting the next morning.
This is what I showed them:
Find some people.
Help them disarm everyone else.
Give them enormous amounts of money.
Give them your wish list.
Wait for the solution!
I finished my presentation and turned to my audience, flushed with triumph. But for some reason, my solution was not greeted with cheers and accolades. Instead, I saw nothing but baffled and angry faces.
“What the hell was that?” demanded the Chairman of the Board.
“What kind of crap was that?”
“I’m sorry,” I frowned. “I’m totally confused. Are there any Republicans or Democrats in the room?”
“Well of course, but…”
“And do you vote? Do you all vote?”
“Well,” I asked, “do you have something against democracy then?”
Of course not, they all cried, but what does any of that have to do with this presentation?
“Well,” I said, “that’s the beauty of it! If you’re a Republican or a Democrat, you already agree that this ‘six step’ solution is the perfect answer to incredibly complex problems like educating children, providing health care, alleviating poverty and eliminating drug use – and tons of other problems far more complex than the one you want me to solve! So – given that you already approve of this ‘six step’ program for the most complicated and challenging social problems, surely it should be perfectly applicable to your much less complicated business issue! Heck, it might even be overkill!
This did not go over very well at all, which was rather surprising to me. I had to interrupt their angry words. “What on earth are you upset about?” I demanded. “Do you disapprove of public education? Does public education use something other than this ‘six step’ program? Don’t we give guns to a group of people and then ask them to educate our children? Don’t we give these people the entire power of the state, which they use to prevent other educators from competing with them? Does this power not give this group access to enormous amounts of money? Do we not keep handing those in the government our ‘wish list’ of the problems we want solved? And do we not fully expect that they will provide us with a solution? Why on earth are you angry? You have already approved this plan!”
More anger, more hostility – and then, most strangely, the Chairman suddenly demanded that I give them a full refund! I could not believe it! I asked if everyone had decided that they no longer were Democrats or Republicans. Strenuous denials all around! I held up my hand. “Excuse me. Excuse me! What do you do when the government fails to give you what you want? Do you demand a refund? If not, then why should I give you one?”
They ended up throwing me out on the street, shook their fists in my face, and promised to sue me if I didn’t give them back every penny they’d paid me.
I got up and dusted myself off, shaking my head in utter confusion. When I offer them a political solution, they scowl and yell at me – but they cheer and vote for a politician! I offer them the exact same solution that the government does, and they express loyalty to the government and threaten me! They throw me out into the street – and then meekly send their children to government schools. And jails. And wars.
People are very, very confusing.
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