Monthly Archives: September 2016

Weighing the Trans-Pacific Partnership on a Larger Scale

Two statistics alone — that 96 percent of the world’s consumers and 80 percent of the world’s purchasing power are outside the United States — should insure our attention is riveted on the first of President Obama’s signature trade deals, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), as it bobs before an un-receptive Congress in a lame-duck year.

 

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Ambassador Charles Rivkin, the State Department’s assistant secretary of Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs

This week TPP evangelist Charles Rivkin was in town to talk about the state of the deal and its benefit to the small businesses and tech startups that make up 95% of Austin’s economy. Ambassador Rivkin is no empty suit. His blue-chip credentials in technology, entertainment and business include negotiating the $1B sale of the Jim Henson company. A self-effacing speaker, he cited a nickname, “Don Quixote,” for promoting causes he believes in (like President Obama).

 

Trade is a complex topic that quickly becomes emotional. But Ambassador Rivkin did something interesting:  he inched the discussion out of the “what” category (jobs) and into another, more properly labeled “how.” Framing TPP as a once-in-a blue-moon opportunity to “raise the standards of international trade” — climate change, endangered species, human rights — while also touting the benefits to specific sectors of the economy. In technology, for example, TPP is the first trade deal to address intellectual property.

Windmill alert:  Watchdog groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Citizen oppose the deal, which doesn’t go far enough for their respective publics. EFF in particular is worried the deal will hamper investigative journalism and openness while endangering privacy. Nobel Laureate and Columbia business professor Joseph Stiglitz, an advisor to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, is also against it, pointing out that financial industry, as always it seems, gets off lightly, as do pharmaceuticals and big business in general.

But other voices support Ambassador Rivkin’s argument. The New York Times’ Nathaniel Popper’s nonlinear look at trade deals cites  TPP supporter David Autor (“China Shock”):

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Courtesy of Paul Windle, the New York Timescites TPP supporter David Autor (“China Shock”): TPP:

 

“The gains to the people who benefited are so enormous — they were destitute,m and now they were brought into the global middle class…The fact that there are adverse consequences in the United States should be taken seriously, but it doesn’t tilt the balance.”

In other words, trade can be seen as a tool to offset economic aid, or as Popper concludes, the benefits of trade have to be evaluated on both sides of the transaction.

Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman is a bit pithier: “Politicians should be honest and realistic about trade, rather than taking cheap shots. Striking poses is easy; figuring out what we can and should do is a lot harder.”

Any way you cut it, I’m glad we have a savvy Don Quixote at work on TPP.

 

 

 

 

Look for Opportunities to Experiment and Master

The term “entrepreneur” is becoming synonymous with a fearlessness in taking the next step,   be it in business, the arts, urban planning, engineering and the sciences.  Fascinating piece about Mark Rabineau, a cultural entrepreneur who is spearheading a program to train musicians for the world we live in –  diverse, disruptive, uncertain. One of his guest lecturers is the cellist Yo-Yo Ma whose ever-expanding repertoire spans classical, jazz, Americana, pop and — my personal favorite – Sinatra.  I’ve never heard Ma labelled a jack-of-all-trades, a generalist or a dilettante. Because he’s made each of these classifications his own: the music is his, not vice versa.

I’ve been thinking about this balance between experimentation and mastery. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to apply Liberating Structures in any meaningful way.  But I look forward to

Two (or more) heads are better than one when there is a disciplined process in place.

doing so soon.  This representation of an LS work session (right) shows how a team approached a backlog issue. I want to compare it with the Agile folks’ approach the same kind of problem.  LS recommends a long butcher-roll paper stretched across a wide space for participants to mark their own thoughts and ideas. It’s reminiscent of a Sunni Brown doodle-thinking tool, executed on a the scale of a group.  Then, how do you to take the idea to the executive team?

 

Here’s what I’m learning:  Tap into other disciplines. Find your tool set. Stay open and work hard. Look for opportunities to practice and experiment.