Re-educating politicians

Re-educating politicians for an ungovernable world

Politicians must themselves be re-educated to suit a world that is increasingly ungovernable – even at the national level – using only the political skills of the present


Politicians themselves must also be re-educated to fit a world that is ungovernable, even at the national level, using only the oratory, tribal politics, intrigues and public-manipulations of the past. Whatever the rights or wrongs of the recent Iraq war, few if any would suggest that the national decisions to support or oppose the invasion, let alone the absence of any clear decisions on how to ‘win the peace’ afterwards, were sufficiently well-informed, appropriately scrutinized or effectively debated by all the world’s politicians.

That unintended unprofessionalism has to change. The current widespread disillusionment with politics is not, from what I observe, primarily caused by apathy as many have suggested. It is instead the partial-rejection of a system that is increasingly seen as disconnected from the world of the general public. It is also a reaction against politicians whose viewpoints, or unwillingness to answer questions directly, all-too-often come across as transparently self-serving. Yet countries face unprecedented and growing challenges to globally-defined national security. The public now expects (and in truth would anyway need) politicians to operate in the most efficient and effective possible manner going forward.

That includes staggering their vacation times. It is utterly absurd for any modern government effectively to ‘shut down for the summer’. In the past, when travel was difficult, it made sense for politicians to stop sitting at various periods throughout the year. That logic has long been superseded. Likewise, top government posts can no longer automatically be handed to politicians who have neither a background in the subject nor experience in running a large department; however bright they are, and whatever they claim, it is simply too risky. No major corporation would dream of being so offhand. The general public should expect no less professionalism in its own governments.

Similarly, debates must be exactly that: Debates. It is unacceptable that in many countries politicians do not even attend the discussions about the issues they then vote on. It is just as inappropriate that those who do attend while someone tries to sell an idea to them, rather than carefully listening to the detail instead resort to rhetorical barracking and political point-scoring. That is not the way that members of professionally-run organizations conduct themselves when they care about achieving the most valuable outcome from a discussion. Neither now can politicians. Effective dialogue is a skill. It can be trained to politicians just as it has been for decades to many top-executives.

And finally, politicians during interviews must stop resorting to the increasingly-obvious avoidance techniques encouraged by outdated media-trainers. A sophisticated viewer sees it for what it is, and these days even uneducated societies in poor nations run by tyrants are becoming sophisticated viewers. However, it should go without saying that government reform that merely entails a bit of training of politicians and a few organizational updates is – on its own – little more than glorified tinkering. It will never, of itself, resolve the fundamental disconnect between national self-interest and globally-defined threats. Any more than a bank realigning its strategy to encompass the principle of Unelected Responsibility will avoid another global financial crisis. Any more than an oil-company applying True Costing and a retail-chain adopting Collective Sustainability will minimize climate change or prevent depletion of the ocean’s fish.

To achieve those things demands something extra. It certainly still needs a widespread realigning of corporate, government and institutional strategies around appropriate combinations of Unelected Responsibility, True Costing, Collective Sustainability, Mirrored Tolerance, Pre-emptive Recovery and Holistic Perspective. But it requires more. It is time for some grown-up discussions. Time for joined-up thinking. Time for genuine leadership. This is the opportunity for private individuals, groups, communities, companies, major corporations, multinationals, whole industries, institutions, governments, supranational bodies and the international community at large to make a difference. It is time for the true leaders in society to stand up and take the initiative.