Quick question. What’s the biggest difference between our business and political leaders?
One group is intensely focused on getting things done, while the other keeps repeating the same old rhetoric. I’ll leave it up to you to decide who’s who!
I was struck by these starkly different mindsets when I came across two articles in the same paper. One was about the political paralysis in DC over health care, while the other was on the steps Walmart is taking to fight back against Amazon.
First to business. Both these companies are corporate big dogs, dominant on their own turf. Walmart is the leading brick-and-mortar retailer. Amazon is king of the internet jungle.
A growing problem for Walmart is that not only are shoppers increasingly turning away from physical stores and spending more instead on e-commerce, Amazon is also encroaching on traditional store turf, going local with new distribution centers across the country to speed-up delivery of online purchases.
Walmart is “frantically playing catchup” by learning the technology business.
Far from its sprawling company campus in Bentonville, Arkansas, the giant retailer has set-up @WalmartLabs in Silicon Valley. It’s spending big money on new online headquarters to attract A-list programmers and engineers so that Walmart can successfully compete with Amazon by building a better website.
Contrast this bid for reinvention, improvement and a change in culture with the stale debate among our political leaders over Obamacare.
In what was obviously a futile attempt right from the start, House Republicans voted 40 times to repeal the law. 40 separate times!
At the White House the focus until very recently was much more on the politics of health care than on the nuts and bolts of delivering a first-class website for the new federal marketplace opened October 1st. President Obama and his aides are paying dearly for that now.
In an illuminating op-ed for the New York Times, economics professor Tyler Cowen suggested that what both sides in the Obamacare debate should be talking about is the delivery of a better system that saves money and delivers coverage to many more people.
“One of the few things Democrats and Republicans agree on is that the law is imperfect at best,” writes Cowen. Improvements are in reach if they could swallow some pride. “Both sides have a lot to gain, and at some point, they should realize it.”
You don’t have to agree with Cowen’s argument for moving millions of low income families from Medicaid to Obamacare to applaud the spirit of his ideas. At least he is seriously examining how the government delivers services to the people at a cost that taxpayers can afford.
Whether you like them or loathe them, believe that they are can-do capitalists or heartless overpaid plutocrats, that spirit of problem solving is at least something that America’s captains of industry understand. It’s a lesson more politicians should learn.