Fighting the good fight

Interesting post from one of the NY Times’ blogs, which picks up a piece from the Boston Globe (so this is an especially globetrotting post, boom boom). The basic idea, to save you clicking back down the trail, is that partisan government is more effective in a crisis than bipartisan government.

Why? Because ideas – at least in the history of the U.S. Government – have come from partisan causes and been battled into the mainstream. Cosy bipartisanship, while a wonderful ideal, is simply ineffective – particularly in a crisis. Partisanship brings about “the kind of strong and critical advocacy that opens public debate, forces the parties to explain their ideas, and clarifies choices”. 

That sounds like a healthy way to discuss any kind of idea. Where I work, we have an approach we call “Open”. Taken at face value, it looks like a kind of egalitarian, dreamy Utopia where a good idea can come from anywhere and everyone’s as good as anyone else. But I don’t think that’s why it’s a powerful way to work.

For me, working in an open way means people bringing partisan ideas to the table, and allowing anyone to challenge, question, add to and refine them. It isn’t quite the anarchy of the wiki, where everyone has a delete key and no-one has control. Nor is it the oligarchy of the old-school creative agency, where only Creatives can criticise and everyone else must sell.

Instead, it creates lots of arguments. People question each other. Sometimes it can be frustrating as hell, and the temptation to say “shut up” is overwhelming. As it must be in the House of Commons or the Senate when an idea is under fire.

Time will probably tell whether it delivers great ideas, though it’s already started to. But if the Boston Globe is right about partisan politics, I think we might be on to something.


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