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When fixing systems, look at the big picture too…

2012-10-06 17.07.30Mark Cuban has a piece out about the patent system. To be clear, the patent system is not designed to make rich people. Per Wikipedia and the US Constitution. Patents are designed to “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”. My paraphrase?  Patents are designed to drive growth and research by making investments in research and production safe. Many people, including Mark Cuban and me, believe that patents are a bit in left field right now.

This piece is by Mark Cuban, so it doesn’t pull many punches, gets right to the point and may go just a smidgen to far. To paraphrase, stupid patents are hurting us, not helping us and there are simple ways to fix the system. He may be right. I agree with him, but as we should all know, I’m not always right. Mark’s rules are simple, and time-boxed. They lean towards the use of patents, vs the storage of patents. In his world, patents are, and should be, a defensive weapon, not a hidden offense, so his solution begins by looking at the overall goal more than the current problem.

Mark has some interesting ideas about the stock market too. I like his ideas there. He has similar ideas. He believes that the stock market needs to be pushed back to creating capital for business. A few straightforward rules designed to make the stock market an investment arena and not a poker game. Basically, he wants stocks to be held for long periods of time, so trades on a stick that has been held for less than five years get taxed at personal income rates vs no taxes on long term investment. In addition, he would outlaw leverage. He has more detail in his blog post. Seriously. Read his stuff. Always off the cuff, but pretty well thought out.

I haven’t heard what he thinks about testing in schools, but I’d guess it’s fairly sane and to the point. That is because Mark does two things very well. To be clear, I’ve never met him, nor worked with him, but from a distance, this is what I see. First, he listens well and studies the existing systems, rules and processes in depth. Second, once he has an understanding, he doesn’t start by building on the top of the house of cards. He figures out what the key learnings should be from the existing house of cards, and then incorporates those learnings into his new thoughts, which he begins at ground level. This is about identifying the goals first, strategy second and finally implementing solid tactics.

As a society, we have a tendency to add rules and regulations on top of existing ones. An example is a check box on the 1040 asking us if our investment losses are related to the oil and gas industry. Use that box much? Over time, this builds a system that can be very complex and cumbersome. In my business career, I’ve seen this a lot. I can’t count the times that I’ve been in a meeting and the discussion is revolving around adding to a process. Often, what we’ve learned can take a 14 step process and add two branches to make it a 32 step process.  OR.  We can build a 6 step process that brings the same result.

Seriously. I run in to this ALL THE TIME! Not just in business either. A friend was taking a medication. Side effect brought on another. New side effect brought another. Finally, it got to the point that I had to take them to an appointment for discussion of a new side effect. Now I was the outsider. BUT. I did speak up when a new drug was being added to the mix. I asked a simple question. Since the original condition was temporary, and cured, couldn’t we consider an end to ALL of the medication. Long silence. Upshot. No prescription. NONE! And I’m not a doctor, but I look at systems and strategies for a living. No one was thinking about the underlying goals or strategy, ALL THOUGHT was on tactics.

As a society, we need to have a system that has a method of identifying goals, deciding on strategy, then implementing tactics. When goals change, we shouldn’t be looking at new tactics. We should review the strategy, then look at tactics.

Posted in Business.

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