Compliments to the Complements

Connecting to the Principles, Part 4

Millennials have sought to build a social life that is more visible, more networked and more transparent than any generation before them. To be sure, Gen Y’ers and even Boomers have used online social networks in numbers that would likely have surprised anyone 20 years ago…some might say “everybody’s doing it!” Millennials have grown up connected, however – that’s why they’re also called digital natives. The effects of all that connectivity compose the basis for one of our main premises in Fulfilling the American Promise in the Connected Age.

There are some important questions to ponder about all this though. What are the effects of an online social life? Are we over-connected? What are the consequences of the new forms of connectivity in terms of the future of collaboration? How do we make collaboration work better in the connected age?

These are some of the questions we posed to ourselves as we articulated the Principles last month. We thought long and hard about collaboration when postulating that competition and compromise are key complementary components of our political process. We also thought about collaboration’s effects on capitalism the way it’s practiced in America. We were driven to think about this because our current Congress seems to have forgotten how collaboration works, even though we see business succeeding more and more through collaboration in the connected age.

So with this post we’re looking a little more closely at the complementary relationship of compromise and competition and the resulting outcome of improved collaboration in the connected age. We’re also examining how this improved collaboration is exploited by Millennials. Focusing on connectivity, a look at collaboration through this lens helps us better understand why competition is good, and so is compromise. If we learn how to balance the two, in collaboration, we can rebuild the American Center and perhaps even draw more from the extreme edges back to the Center.

Just to review, a complement is “something that completes something else or makes it better…or makes perfect.” While we’re not describing a perfect relationship in our thinking, we are proposing that competition and compromise work together…complete each other…to make it more likely for collaboration to succeed. If we only rely on competition of ideas or ideology to improve our ability to lead, and in the process avoid compromise altogether, we are destroying the potential for collaboration to work…that’s not leadership.

Since we’re all human, none of us can get it right all the time, no matter how strong the ideology behind our beliefs. There aren’t even two sides to most arguments in Congress so how is it even possible to be right all the time? How is it possible to think only in terms of the “other side is wrong” and has nothing to contribute? How did the concept of compromise become a negative? If we could answer these questions collaboratively we might find a way forward. Fortunately, at least two US Senators are trying to address these issues…that is leadership.

The “normal” way of doing business in Congress in recent years appears to be built on only competition, spurning compromise because that is allegedly some sort of sign of weakness, or failure to be responsive to a particular voting base. But that’s not how our nation came to be. In 1775-1776, ideas competed but the Continental Congress recognized that compromise made those competing ideas stronger when effectively blended. The Founders inherently understood that successful collaboration requires that compromise and competition work together to improve the chances of achieving good policy and valuable outcomes.

This isn’t just the case in government, either. In the FAPITCA Principles, we proposed as an objective that “American capitalism is largely based on the complementary functions of competition and compromise between buyers and sellers in the market.” This means that one party, sellers, provide value to the other party, buyers, through a complementary relationship that brings together a market that might not otherwise exist. This happens in the normally collegial world of academics, as well. Value is added through the synergy of compromise and competition.

The Millennial generation leverages their digital native nature through their online social life and has benefitted from the effects the synergy of competition and compromise has on collaboration. At any early age, they began to play online games together and discovered the power of cooperation and compromise to overcome the big “Boss” adversary in each level of the virtual world in which they played and interacted. Typically, they never even met their playing partners.

Millennials have friends, by their definition, on Facebook that they’ve also never met and yet still share ideas and learn from each other. The same is true to a considerably lesser degree to the older generations but it was tougher since it was like learning a new language at an older age. Millennials grew up with speaking this language!

Competition and compromise are the effects of the digital age that the digital natives have accepted and in which they now thrive. The consequences of this life (the life of the generation from which we’ve borrowed the Boomer and Gen Y environments, as we discussed in the last post) are leading to fascinating findings that will soon be informing the growth of the American Center.

An appreciation of this change is happening everywhere but the halls of Congress, apparently. The Boomers squatting on the edges of that hallowed venue have just not sufficiently learned enough of the lessons of connecting in this age. They have not learned the value of compromise as a complement to competition to make it possible to collaborate on issues like healthcare, employment, immigration, the environment, redistricting, campaign finance, military missions and expenditures, social welfare and almost anything else we could imagine. What collaborative tools they have at their disposal if only they could truly immigrate to the connected age!

Unfortunately, we’re not prepared to say that any effects or consequences the digital natives are experiencing in the connected age will flow into the halls of Congress and State Houses anytime soon. They all think they are connected and doing the peoples’ business using the tools of social media like the Millennials. The problem is they’re primarily using these tools to get reelected, and all too rarely to take care of the nation and their constituents. That’s the biggest difference between those so-called political-digital immigrants and the digital natives of the Millennial generation. That’s where leadership will come in, but that’s for another post – we’ll get to that soon!

Next time, we’ll be publishing our first guest blog post…from a real Millennial! We’re delighted to highlight the perspectives of the real future of America, and hope it opens the door to more posts from the generations younger than the Boomers who are currently the “caretakers” of America. It’s time that the learning and sharing flow both ways.

Originally posted by Carl and Chuck Hunt, 3/11/2014.

2 thoughts on “Compliments to the Complements

  1. Hi Carl, I read your piece and as you may have guessed I agreed. I have a suggestion that I offer with some trepidation. I think if the essay were edited to half the length you would get more mileage out of it. All of your mentioned generations are impatient and I think you have to get at them quickly.

    I hope you will forgive my hubris. Best wishes, Harold


    • Thanks, Harold! As Founding Father Ben Franklin is reputed to have written “I have already made this paper too long, for which I must crave pardon, not having now time to make it shorter.” We’ll endeavor to take your advice, which is sound as always!

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