Five Things President Obama Needs to Do Immediately to Help America

MIT Sloan Professor of Management, bestselling author, and considered to be one of the world's top thinkers in organizational matters, Edgar Schein knows group dynamics and motivation. The overarching principle of effective help is that the helper wants to help and is aware of where help is not only needed, but will be accepted if offered.  Given those conditions, here is what Obama should do right away:

1) Stimulate the economy by providing a jobs program.

Nothing is more demoralizing to the citizenry than being out of work or having meaningless work.  The country needs a jobs program to be implemented immediately.

2) Begin work with government and private healthcare providers, practitioners, and industries to work toward comprehensive health care programs for all.

Nothing is more frightening than having health problems without the means or access to address them. Nothing drives families into debt quicker than medical bills.  Not only must costs be curtailed reasonably, but the country needs to a more positive approach that stresses health maintenance over just treatment.

3) Start doing the footwork and research to broker a peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The conflict has always been there but lately has become expecially bloody and needing of resolution as soon as possible. Locate where the core pain is for both parties and provide positive leadership to create a program that is motivated by the need to resolve that pain. This will lead to a mutually beneficial, two-state solution.

4) Work with economists to establish quantifiable ways to measure overall progress.

A jobs program will stimulate the economy, but we also need to re-engineer or revamp the controls and systems of checks and balances to insure that the people know where the money is going and so that the money will go where it is needed.

5) Begin rebuilding our international reputation as reliable partners in the global fight against terrorism and environmental and atmospheric deterioration.

Our ways of dealing with terrorism and environmental pollution have limited effect and do not inspire other nations to partner with us. Multiple helping relationships must be built with our European, Asian and South American allies to contend with these issues on a global scale because they are global problems and not just national problems. It is imperative that especially in this arena help should only be offered where it is needed.  Unsolicited help quickly leads to imperialism.

Are there any that should have been on this list that weren't? Do you have a list of top five things the president should start focusing on now? Please add your feedback and comments below.


Anonymous said...

Considering all the new administration has to contend with, I'd say their priorities as demonstrated so far are in pretty good order. I'd really support continued focus on infrastructure. It creates jobs, and we need that stuff, badly. Good luck with universal healthcare--we really need that, too.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps as important as what Obama should do is what he should stop doing. Right now government pays huge subsidies to agribusiness to produce corn and soy that gets funneled into almost all prepared foods as high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats. Eliminate those two things, and the health care picture would improve dramatically without an expensive program. Then what he should do in its place is subsidize locally grown organic producers. We would eliminate hosts of health and environmental problems from those two steps.

Anonymous said...

"Find the core pain," in the Middle East suggests that 2000 years of conflict and hatred can be addressed if we just approach the problem rationally. The problem is that neither the parties involved or other stakeholders have done few things rational over the last 60 years. It seems that no matter how great the pain one party or the other "feels" it does not seem to be enought to bring them to solutions that offer some resolution.

Anonymous said...

As anyone would expect who has had the honor of being in Edgar Schein's presence, he has provided a brilliant list, and in the right order. As part of the re-engineering of the nation's infrastructure (my professional expertise for the past 18 years), I would create a Department of Peace (separate from the DoD), whose mission is to create large groups of individuals who practice Transcendental Meditation collectively. This has been shown to reduce negative tendencies, crime, and outbreaks of war. This would help stabilize volatile hotspots, so that the business of peace can take place and build momentum.

Anonymous said...

What to do? Help stop this "race" nonsense!

Each member of the new Cabinet, along with Obama and Biden, should participate in the National Geographic/IBM Genographic Project. Then post the results in the White House web page.

BK said...

Some excellent suggestions and ideas here! The middle east situation is definitely a tricky situation because of various factors on both sides. I am not sure about transcendental meditation but I am very much behind the establishment of a department of Peace!

Anonymous said...

Dr. Bob -- I am intrigued by this genographic project you speak about -- what is it and how can it help race issues in America?

Gary B. Brumback said...

Very good, Dr. Schein, but your list is not enough. Even if all of your five immediate priorities were implemented immediately, we can "bank" on their effects being short lived unless five overriding strategies are also pursued.

The first is to end politics-as-usual. While I voted excitedly for Obama, there are signs that he may become more usual than unusual a politician. Carrying out this first strategy would involve seeking ways to reduce big business' influence on all three branches of government. There are numerous initiatives for carrying out this strategy but I won't take the space here to enumerate them.

The second would involve ending our hands-off, or laissez-faire, government. Again, I'll omit the specifics here.

The third would involve ending government hand-outs. This would mean ending a huge corporate welfare program, and attaching tough strings to any more bailouts to help the current recovery effort. One big hand-out to end must be warfare welfare.

The fourth would involve totally reinventing our economic system, turning it into one fit for a true democracy, not the faux democracy we have had since Reagan came on the scene. We would have to rid our current system of its free-market nonsense that leads to huge economic disparities and widespread poverty; financial speculation, including foreign currency speculation (it's a capital offense in China!); exploitative globalization aided and abetted by the "Unholy Trinity" of the World Bank, the IMF, and the WTO; un sustained growth and goliath corporations; and we would have to put an emphasis on further development of localized economies.

Various authors, including some published by B-K have excellent ideas about what such a better economic system would look like. These authors need to be read, taken seriously, and promoted to the general public and to our government.

The fifth would be to end public-inaction. There is still too much of it even with the turnout for Obama. We need to give some real substance to his www.organizing for America campaign and to supplement it with a related and even more important initiative. America needs to have a US Chamber of Democracy as an umbrella organization to coordinate and reinforce all the many hundreds if not thousands of splintered, fragmented, often miniscule pro-America/democracy activities going on around the nation. For instance, I have a list of at least 150 NGOs small to large carrying out such activities. Many are duplicative efforts and hardly any NGOs communicate/coordinate with the others. If George Washington's army was so divided and fragmented, we'd still be subjects of the British monarchy. Obama's flock and these NGOs should be part of the new USCD with it having among many, many other projects/initiatives a host of democratic action committees, or DACs. Think about it. It's not such a dumb idea.

Respectfully submitted,

Gary B. Brumback

Anonymous said...

For more information on the Department of Peace check out

High ranking military officers from multiple countries endorse the concept of a US Department of Peace and the well-researched technologies to avert war.

Thank you to B-K and Dr. Schein for initiating this stimulating this conversation. Now let's go MAKE IT HAPPEN!

siddhartha said...

Disengage once and for all with the idea of American Exceptionalism which conceit allows, among others, such semantic marvels as "Weapons of Mass Destruction" in the hands of uncompliant states while the US only has "Nuclear Devices." The US has "Biological Agents" while the uncompliant have "Germ Warfare." Naming things correctly is the first step to peace. This can lead to a reappraisal of American history in which resides the genocide of one people and the enslavement of another -- in the space of just 300 years. It is a terrible record. American exceptionalism and its corresponding vocabulary continues to conceal, rationalize, or extenuate the consistent use of massive violence to secure policy ends. Unless the vocabulary changes, and that will happen when American Exceptionalism atrophies away, peace will remain an impossible dream. It will be lovely to see the US begin its rebirth under Obama's watch. I think he understands that the mental models that undergird the American self-image is where change needs to begin. But will he lose his legitimacy if he addresses this issue head on?

Anonymous said...

It's difficult to disagree with any of the worthy items on Dr. Schein's list or in the comments. I would add that Pres. Obama needs to lead the effort to create some type of global oversight of our financial system. Without some means of coordinating action by financial regulators around the world, well-intentioned actions by individual countries are more likely to lead to chaotic financial outcomes. The trillions of dollars that flow daily among the world's financial capitals create too many pressure points where everything can go awry. As our global interconnectedness increases, no single country will be in a position to prevent another meltdown of the overall system.

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