So imagine my surprise tonight as I read a "dated" book on ideas, Applied Imagination... by Alex Osborn.
I was re-reading the book to help me think through how our clients can better use the Imagination! Network when I stumbled upon something wholly unexpected.
Very near the beginning of the book Osborn talks about how America needs new ideas in "International Salesmanship" and "International Statesmanship" to "cut our international knot." He contends that American ingenuity has been badly applied to the fight for peace (as opposed to vast amounts of ingenuity applied to actual fighting).
He then recounts, very briefly, bottom-up ideas such as the Frienship Train, the Miracle of Dunkirk, and the Italian letter clubs. And he takes the U.S. government to task for failing to respond to such compelling "ideas of our enemies" as Tractors-for-Prisoners and the public challenge we received to "initiate some concrete ideas to blunt the threat of war."
Which led me to ask, "where are the creative ideas to address the current global crises that the U.S. faces?"
Where are the bottom-up ideas that will help people in the middle east to learn about the U.S., both good and bad? Who has a good idea for a way to help the U.N. become an organization that more Americans can respect and support? Who has an idea for a movement that will help the world respond to the seemingly never-ending Darfurs?
I must believe that the huge amount of passion about America being expended in cafes, bars, universities, newspapers, and blogs is somehow being mis-spent.
Why is American ingenuity being applied so strongly to domestic arguing, lies, delusions, and pure animosity when it could be put to such more enjoyable uses?
∗ ∗ ∗ps - Since most readers may fail to recognize the ideas which Osborn describes, let me point out that this book was written in 1953 and my revision dates from 1963. Each of these ideas was put in place to blunt the fallout from the second world war. For example, the Italian-American letter-writing campaign was aimed at a 1948 election in Italy, wherein recent immigrants to the U.S. described what life was really like to their relatives and friends in the old country in an attempt to counter the lies being spread by the Soviet Union and the Italian Communist Party. While tractors-for-prisoners was a Castro program and the challenge to the U.S. was thrown by Kruschev.