Monday May 9, 2016

As a long-time strategy/management consultant to corporations and government, I am often approached by newly-declared consultants on their first rodeo. Today, one of these lamented the lack of success in developing new business. His take:

"I do not know about you, but it has been profoundly quiet. I am getting the sense that nobody wants to make any commitments because they do not know what is going to happen next. Perhaps this is a reflection of the Clinton/Trump fear. As I read recently somewhere, 'the problem with this election is that somebody has to win.'"

The Clinton / Trump point is, I believe, a quite common rationale adopted these days for the condition of the economic muddle. In fact, this is only a minor factor distinguishing current times from previous events of the larger predictable cycle.

This is the situation at every election I have known as a professional consultant. It isn't just the two candidates, it is the contest itself, and the surety that policy will change, yet the direction is unknown, as well as the magnitude. The election cycle is predictably disruptive.

The need is to hunker down, endure, not worry. An expenditure of more than nominal business-getting effort isn't worth it, and can be harmful, for to do so is to declare oneself in directions that are predominantly unlikely to unfold.

Exceptions to this course have primarily to do with whether one is (or is not) "going political" in an attempt to bet on joining a new administration….long shots at best. This would include attempts to contribute to one campaign or another, or to issue-based SuperPacs.

For future directions (and investments): at high-risk are most certainly all of Obama energy directions, science directions, defense policies/priorities, health imperatives, …. etc. The hubs (i.e., "centers of excellence" focused on selected technical areas, such as batteries, renewables, et al) are a doomed concept.

Even the best of these (e.g., CASL – a collaborative effort among industry, regulators, and R&D labs to model and simulate light-water nuclear reactors) is unlikely to continue through a third round of funding in the present incarnation….a new name / rationale / policy / etc will need to be found if it is to survive. Holding on to the old policy configuration is a slide toward fiscal / policy death. Each administration must conceive of its own emphases, names, priorities.

I think exoscale efforts (building the next size of high-performance computing power), while not bullish under BHO, are likely to decline in favor of simplified concepts for computing power escalation, or greater emphasis on use of existing resources to extend application to other problem-solving ventures — in the longer run. This could build confidence in simulations to the point that later renewed exoscale pushes could launch at a steeper climb, … building on coalesced confidence in the scientific community —- READ THIS TO MEAN that efforts at collaborative problem-solving are more politically uncharged, more fundable…i.e., best action is to seek a problem for collaborative problem solving and get funding under the problem area, not under money for hardware.

Nuclear is obviously in danger. It can only be successful under strong national / Federal policy commitment, the kind unseen since the 1970s. However, world events may be conspiring to position a Federal change in attitude toward nuclear. NEI is useless in the main.

"Innovation" is safe, but quite abstract. Money can be found for this, but I think primarily from the foundations of the super-rich tech (& other) barons, and in corporate self-investment; government for the time being is, and should be, tapped out.

Just trying to read the cards, find an interim play, survive, and be resurrected in a revitalized economy. Clinton offers no chance for this. Trump is completely unknown. The power money seems behind Clinton. The voters more energized for disruption on both sides.

Welcome to "interesting times."


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