I just read some comments from U2’s Bono about the importance of the upcoming US presidential election. Here’s the part that caught my eye:
The whole world has a stake in how things turn out. The way the U.S. is perceived — “Brand USA” — also means something. And it’s never been so closely watched… it’s a great chance to relaunch Brand USA
My take: Bono’s approach of framing the US challenges in terms of our “branding” makes a lot of sense. I like the idea of applying private sector thinking to the public sector. With that in mind, I’ve applied my 6 new management imperatives to the role of the US president. So here’s some advice for Barack Obama or John McCain in leading a revival of “Brand USA:”
- Invest in culture as a corporate asset: The national debt, federal deficit, and stock market devaluation are indications of our country’s economic woes. But there’s a more fundamental indicator of the US situation: the deteriorating attitudes, values, and goals of the American people — our US culture. The new president needs to define and communicate a clear vision for America with the goal of instilling a sense of pride, hope, and optimism in the American people. An improved US culture will align the actions of US people with initiatives like cutting back on oil consumption and help propel a strong, vibrant recovery.
- Make listening an enterprisewide skill. The world is in flux. The economic downturn is not a US issue, it’s a global issue. Severe problems like AIDS, global warming, and Bird Flu transcend sovereign borders. One fact is clear, the US can not succeed by acting unilaterally. To flourish in this interlinked world, the president will need to establish better lines of communications with and facilitate better coordination across all of the key countries and regimes around the world. He’ll also need to look for ideas and insights across political lines. The new president will need to embed listening throughout his administration as a foundation for formulating strategies and policies.
- Turn innovation into a continuous process. We can’t keep going down the same path on critical issues like health-care, national security, energy, and the environment and expect to wind up with different, better results. Let’s face it, no legislative bill can fix these problems. What’s the answer? As Michael Porter has said: “Innovation is the central issue in economic prosperity.” So instead of pinning his hopes on big-bang solutions, the new president needs to create an environment (legislation and persuasion) that actively fosters coordinated and ongoing innovations in the private sector to improve these mega-issues.
- Provide a clear and compelling purpose. People need to know that the US stands for good, positive virtues. Why? So Americans will feel more connected (and committed to actualizing those virtues) and people in other countries won’t continue to think of the US as a big bully. So the next president needs to clearly define and articulate an inspiring vision for the country. Think about how much clarity the Ritz-Carlton credo provides for its customers, partners, and employees:
“The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission… The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.”
- Extend and enhance the digital fabric. Over the last 10 years, there’s been enormous advances in information technology (IT). Yet the US government, like many organizations, has not taken full advantage of IT opportunities. Why not? Because it’s difficult to change old processes, break through outdated thinking, and overcome parochialism. But the new president should aggressively take on these challenges and use IT to streamline governmental processes, coordinate information and analysis across departments, and dramatically increase Web self-service for citizens and government employees. The result: a lower-cost, more effective US government.
- Practice good social citizenship. As one of the most prosperous nations on earth, we need to make sure that we we take care of the needy in our country as well as helping those in less prosperous countries. We also need to take a lead in fighting some of the world’s key problems like the global warming, world hunger, and AIDS. The new president should be a highly visible leader in attacking these problems.
The bottom line: It’s up to the next president to make “Brand USA” one of the most admired brands in the world.