Presidential Chaos

The Oval Office is in chaos.  Donald Trump is mercurial, scatter-brained, given to changing his opinion every few minutes.  Talks all the time.  Doesn’t listen.  Is opinionated.  Often wrong.  He is interested only in today, not tomorrow.  He lacks caution.  It all adds up to a president who clearly is mentally deficient – insane even.  Or so some say.  They say it is vital for the Nation’s future that Donald Trump be relieved of his office – or at least tightly controlled.

All of the above may, or may not, be true.  Only those in a day-to-day working relationship with the president know the reality, and publicly they say only positive things about the man.

Whatever the truth, the simple fact is that Donald Trump is, thus far, perhaps the most productive president in American history.  Only Teddy Roosevelt is a productive rival, and chaos surrounded him, as well.  How can Trump’s purported chaotic insanity produce such positive results?

The simplest explanation is simple:  Donald Trump may be a genius!  Don’t laugh.  He may be the real thing.  He jokes about it, which suggests he doesn’t realize that he really is (see the Dunning-Kruger effect).  His career record certainly suggests he is a major creative talent – and a gutsy one at that.

Perhaps President Trump is the kind of genius who thrives on turmoil.  If so, that explains the chaos.  In my profession of physics, there have been several brilliant notables with exactly that characteristic.  It is not to say that Donald Trump lacks self-discipline.  He wouldn’t be where he is today if discipline was lacking.  His discipline is probably very different from the norm, but it clearly works.

Creative people understand chaos.  They especially understand it if they have collaborated with other talented people on a difficult problem.  Creative chaos is the norm in such an environment.  Without that chaos productivity can vanish.

More than half a century ago, equipped with a fresh physics degree, I attracted the attention of a group of professional inventors and was hired.  Most of the time the work was routine.  The real fun came, most days, when things were winding down.  Then a few of us would gather together for exercises in pure invention.  We were led by the group’s technical boss, a master inventor.  It was in these sessions that I received my training as a professional inventor.  The most noteworthy things about these sessions were their chaos and their entertainment value – they really were fun.

A problem would be posed.  It didn’t matter what kind of problem as long as there was no known solution.  Then came a great deal of discordant, often simultaneous, often loud, back and forth.  Chaos.  Then, sometimes popping out of the blue, a solution magically appeared.  Almost always these sessions would produce at least one patentable invention (and often more than one).  We usually didn’t file patent because the invention was seldom relevant to our business and patents are expensive.

Given the creative ferment there it is little wonder that the group produced a series of engineering masterpieces.

Later, after several uninspiring years in graduate school, I found myself working directly for one of the aerospace industry’s great geniuses.  Chaos again.  I was back in my element.  People change, personalities change, but the creative chaos is always the same – provided the talent is there.

Trump faces a problem: the Government.  The Government is not, by its nature, a creative institution.  When it tries to be it almost invariable gets it wrong.  Just consider all the failed social programs if you doubt this.

Government is good at routine.  Routine minds are repelled by the kind of turbulence that surrounds Donald Trump.  Which, of course, is the reason they have routine minds in routine jobs.  Government is process oriented and rule bound.  Once a routine is established things tend to go smoothly for a while.  Unfortunately routine breaks down in stressing situations.  Then, creative thinking is required.  But the creativity is usually not there.  Creative people just don’t fit comfortably in a process oriented organization.

The aerospace industry has many examples where process breaks down.  One program, where I was involved at a senior level, suffered from excessive process.  The program manager was a retired Lieutenant General who had had great success managing a key part of the first Gulf War.  He was highly intelligent and accessible.  But he did not understand the creative chaos required for success in this kind of program.  What he did understand was process.

Key decisions were to be made according to a detailed schedule, not for technical merit.  After an expenditure of more than a billion dollars of government money, and hundreds of millions of dollars of corporate investment, the program was canceled.  Process had killed the program.

The people who thrive at upper levels in Government are mostly highly intelligent conventional thinkers.  Put them in the service of someone like Donald Trump and they may do outstanding work.  Or, they may rebel and engage in subversion.  Such rebellion seems to be a problem today.

According to the notorious 9/5/18 New York Times op ed piece by Anonymous,  there exists an informal Steady State conspiracy at high levels in Trump’s administration.  Reportedly, this group has interfered with the president’s decision process.  It has done so by pilfering documents that were put in front of him to sign.  Implied, this group also biases the information going to the president.  Is this editorial factual?  Or, is it just malicious disinformation from the swamp?  If it is real then substantial housecleaning is in order.  In any case, among a cast of hundreds, or even thousands, there inevitably will be those who will be disaffected.

In time the mix of the people around the president will have evolved to be a buffer between the productive conventional thinkers and their highly unconventional boss.  In engineering terms, Trump’s senior staff should serve as an efficient impedance matching device.  Given Donald Trump’s major talents, and with such a mature staff around the president, we can expect this administration to go down as one history’s greatest.

Graphic credit: Pixabay

The Oval Office is in chaos.  Donald Trump is mercurial, scatter-brained, given to changing his opinion every few minutes.  Talks all the time.  Doesn’t listen.  Is opinionated.  Often wrong.  He is interested only in today, not tomorrow.  He lacks caution.  It all adds up to a president who clearly is mentally deficient – insane even.  Or so some say.  They say it is vital for the Nation’s future that Donald Trump be relieved of his office – or at least tightly controlled.

All of the above may, or may not, be true.  Only those in a day-to-day working relationship with the president know the reality, and publicly they say only positive things about the man.

Whatever the truth, the simple fact is that Donald Trump is, thus far, perhaps the most productive president in American history.  Only Teddy Roosevelt is a productive rival, and chaos surrounded him, as well.  How can Trump’s purported chaotic insanity produce such positive results?

The simplest explanation is simple:  Donald Trump may be a genius!  Don’t laugh.  He may be the real thing.  He jokes about it, which suggests he doesn’t realize that he really is (see the Dunning-Kruger effect).  His career record certainly suggests he is a major creative talent – and a gutsy one at that.

Perhaps President Trump is the kind of genius who thrives on turmoil.  If so, that explains the chaos.  In my profession of physics, there have been several brilliant notables with exactly that characteristic.  It is not to say that Donald Trump lacks self-discipline.  He wouldn’t be where he is today if discipline was lacking.  His discipline is probably very different from the norm, but it clearly works.

Creative people understand chaos.  They especially understand it if they have collaborated with other talented people on a difficult problem.  Creative chaos is the norm in such an environment.  Without that chaos productivity can vanish.

More than half a century ago, equipped with a fresh physics degree, I attracted the attention of a group of professional inventors and was hired.  Most of the time the work was routine.  The real fun came, most days, when things were winding down.  Then a few of us would gather together for exercises in pure invention.  We were led by the group’s technical boss, a master inventor.  It was in these sessions that I received my training as a professional inventor.  The most noteworthy things about these sessions were their chaos and their entertainment value – they really were fun.

A problem would be posed.  It didn’t matter what kind of problem as long as there was no known solution.  Then came a great deal of discordant, often simultaneous, often loud, back and forth.  Chaos.  Then, sometimes popping out of the blue, a solution magically appeared.  Almost always these sessions would produce at least one patentable invention (and often more than one).  We usually didn’t file patent because the invention was seldom relevant to our business and patents are expensive.

Given the creative ferment there it is little wonder that the group produced a series of engineering masterpieces.

Later, after several uninspiring years in graduate school, I found myself working directly for one of the aerospace industry’s great geniuses.  Chaos again.  I was back in my element.  People change, personalities change, but the creative chaos is always the same – provided the talent is there.

Trump faces a problem: the Government.  The Government is not, by its nature, a creative institution.  When it tries to be it almost invariable gets it wrong.  Just consider all the failed social programs if you doubt this.

Government is good at routine.  Routine minds are repelled by the kind of turbulence that surrounds Donald Trump.  Which, of course, is the reason they have routine minds in routine jobs.  Government is process oriented and rule bound.  Once a routine is established things tend to go smoothly for a while.  Unfortunately routine breaks down in stressing situations.  Then, creative thinking is required.  But the creativity is usually not there.  Creative people just don’t fit comfortably in a process oriented organization.

The aerospace industry has many examples where process breaks down.  One program, where I was involved at a senior level, suffered from excessive process.  The program manager was a retired Lieutenant General who had had great success managing a key part of the first Gulf War.  He was highly intelligent and accessible.  But he did not understand the creative chaos required for success in this kind of program.  What he did understand was process.

Key decisions were to be made according to a detailed schedule, not for technical merit.  After an expenditure of more than a billion dollars of government money, and hundreds of millions of dollars of corporate investment, the program was canceled.  Process had killed the program.

The people who thrive at upper levels in Government are mostly highly intelligent conventional thinkers.  Put them in the service of someone like Donald Trump and they may do outstanding work.  Or, they may rebel and engage in subversion.  Such rebellion seems to be a problem today.

According to the notorious 9/5/18 New York Times op ed piece by Anonymous,  there exists an informal Steady State conspiracy at high levels in Trump’s administration.  Reportedly, this group has interfered with the president’s decision process.  It has done so by pilfering documents that were put in front of him to sign.  Implied, this group also biases the information going to the president.  Is this editorial factual?  Or, is it just malicious disinformation from the swamp?  If it is real then substantial housecleaning is in order.  In any case, among a cast of hundreds, or even thousands, there inevitably will be those who will be disaffected.

In time the mix of the people around the president will have evolved to be a buffer between the productive conventional thinkers and their highly unconventional boss.  In engineering terms, Trump’s senior staff should serve as an efficient impedance matching device.  Given Donald Trump’s major talents, and with such a mature staff around the president, we can expect this administration to go down as one history’s greatest.

Graphic credit: Pixabay