Gregg Fraley

Domain Knowledge Matters Donald Trump

trump-presidential-announcement-2015Call me king of the obvious but I’d like to remind folks about something related to leadership, innovation, and the upcoming election.

Domain Knowledge Matters

I’m not taking political sides here but I’m going to make a point about Donald Trump’s candidacy. Let’s face it he has captured the attention of a large group of people. This is factual — the polls have him leading the GOP field.

My opinion on why he’s doing so well is this: Trump says things that are bold, straightforward, non-PC and they echo the sentiments of many Americans. People love this approach because it’s just not what they’re used to hearing from a politician. I’ll put aside the notions and accusations that he’s racist, intolerant, inconsistent, and egotistical — others can make those arguments. In my view those issues mask something more obvious and more important.

My point here is that people respond to the fresh and different voice they are hearing from Donald Trump, but his ability to speak in a fresh way does not mean he’s qualified to be President.

Donald Trump doesn’t know enough to be President. He has scant knowledge of things that are essential to running the most influential country in the world. Creativity and innovation in leadership means making new connections, improving old approaches, and creating new approaches. Donald can’t combine what he knows now with what he doesn’t know about government. That kind of creativity requires domain knowledge. He can’t connect the dots.

I’ll give Donald Trump credit for many things. He’s a shrewd business person. He’s created things, big impressive things. He’s pragmatic and he solves thorny problems — in the domains of real estate, hotels, resorts, and entertainment. He’s an amazingly savvy media manipulator. He’s an exciting speaker. He’s decisive, and in his sphere, clearly, a good decision maker. Overall I’d rate him a very intelligent and effective man, and a brilliant entrepreneur.

But that doesn’t mean he’s qualified to be President.

People seem to think that an outsider would do better in Washington, that an outsider could somehow sweep in and get a lot of things done. Wouldn’t that be lovely, but it’s not likely. Don’t get me wrong, I think an outsider with no direct experience in government could possibly do something great in Washington. But that person would have to know something — a deep level of something — about government and that which surrounds government.

What I’m getting at is domain knowledge matters. Donald Trump lacks domain knowledge and/or experience in several crucial areas related to running a government. He doesn’t know how to get things done in that sphere, in that domain.

You can’t do what you don’t know. I can’t fly a jet airplane even though I’m also a smart and decisive guy. Neither can The Donald.

What doesn’t he know?

Trump does not know history, and therefore he would be doomed to repeat it.

Trump does not know military strategy or tactics — he’s never served, nor is he a student of the making of peace or war. I don’t hold it against him that he sought, and received, medical and student deferments for Vietnam. JFK spared us from World War III in the Cuban crisis because he understood, in detail, the ramifications of “decisive” action. He did not press the button — against the advice of his experts — because he was not only decisive, he was wise. Wisdom requires Domain Knowledge.

Trump does not know law (except regarding how to dodge it/leverage it with strategic bankruptcies) or the constitution. No degrees, no courses, no papers, no articles — how can he defend the constitution if he doesn’t know it?

Trump knows business, and, his path to success was filled with many failures.

Trump’s knowledge of the economy is highly questionable — his ideas expressed thus far reveal nothing about how he would “make America great again” — other than immigration reform. How does he plan to grow middle class jobs? How does he plan to stimulate manufacturing? Immigration reform alone will not grow the middle class (it might help, but then again, it might harm growth). It’s interesting that on Trump’s website there is only one position paper, on Immigration reform, and it’s riddled with highly debatable ideas and quasi-facts. It’s a fact that the growth of Silicon Valley and USA high tech in general has been fueled by immigrants. Trump would do well to read George Gilder’s Microcosm if he wants reality (actual facts) related to immigrants and the economy (Ronald Reagan was a huge Gilder fan by the way). By the way, Trump’s grandfather was a German immigrant named Drumpf. His mother was an immigrant from Scotland. His current wife Melania Knauss is a recent immigrant and new USA citizen. I mention this because his family took advantage of the USA’s open arms to create a new identity and life. More power to them — and why shut the door behind?

A President, any President, needs to start in office with abundant knowledge of history, the military, law, economics, and the workings of government. He cannot rely on advisors, entirely, for what he doesn’t know. Domain knowledge matters in doing any job effectively and it is a requirement for leadership and innovation. Stumbling into something you don’t know usually means you make classic mistakes. Applying the domain knowledge he already has would work best if he knew more about what he was applying it to. 

Fresh voices and perspectives can assist with leadership and innovation in government, but freshness alone won’t do the job.

To be effective you need Domain Knowledge to guide a transformation in government, and to-date, Trump has shown a lack of what he needs to know to do the job.

So, enjoy the fresh voice, but when you start casting votes please consider Domain Knowledge — or lack thereof.



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