Steve Jobs’ Lesson for California Reformers

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In California, almost every effort to redesign the state's governance system begins the same way: with the release of a poll or other public opinion data showing that the particular idea is popular with the public.

Which is exactly why they don't work.

Developing political reforms that work is an action of design.

Effective reforms can't be the product of polling -- because reforms involve change--designing something new--and people can't have any idea if they're going to like a design until they see a change in practice.

But in California politics, that sort of logic is considered lunacy. The people in charge, convinced they are "practical" and "realistic," see the value of an idea in how it polls.

The madness, and circular reasoning, of California politics was recently exposed by, of all things, the orgy of coverage and analysis that followed the death of Steve Jobs.

The stories noted that Jobs, unlike California's political elite, focused on creating the best designs he could for products.

He didn't start with polling or public opinion. He focused on doing something good.

One oft-repeated Jobs quote on this point: "It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."

To get political and governance reform right in California, we need to adopt Jobs' practice. Design the best thing you can. And don't worry about polling.

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