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What makes America great Featured

5:58pm EDT November 29, 2001
Just when I thought it was time to worry myself sick over whether our government was leading us into a horrible quagmire, I read an article that gave me hope.

It was an announcement that the Pentagon is casting a wide net for bright ideas on thwarting terrorism, seeking to pick the brains of everyone from tinkerers in their garages to big corporations worldwide. The goal is to find concepts that could be developed and fielded in 12 to 18 months, much faster than normal Pentagon purchasing and deployment timetables.

What's more, the Defense Department is turning its normal methods inside out by not dictating parameters in excruciating detail, but rather, letting the ideas flow as the basis for creative solutions to old problems.

This is how America got to be the great country it is. And it is how businesses get to be great. Leadership allows ideas to percolate up and down, backward and forward, upside down and right-side up. No idea is squelched. No one is made to feel unnecessary or inadequate, from the CEO to the mailroom clerk.

Everyone is invited to brainstorm and make a contribution. The most promising ideas rise to the top and problems get solved.

This is when marketing is at its best, too. Agencies, design firms and marketers are not the only ones with creativity. What the best of us usually do have, though, is a process that allows and encourages our people to view themselves as problem-solvers and to approach problems in innovative ways.

We encourage play, exploration, curiosity and risk-taking. We subscribe to the notion that good ideas can come from anywhere, so we look everywhere. Teamwork and collaboration are nurtured and often result in better, stronger ideas.

I believe this kind of thinking is in our national "genes." The fabric of our country is woven with entrepreneurism, creativity and daring. And it is manifested in no better way than in our marketplace.

If you need evidence, look at what's happened with the Internet over the past five years. There are a lot of people thinking outside the box, as marketers like to say. Now, the U.S. government is thinking outside the box by asking us, in turn, to do the same.

It's gratifying to see the government taking a cue from its best and brightest in the business world, who know a successful company is only as good as its people. A successful nation is only as good as its citizens.

If you've got a great idea for the Pentagon on how to defeat difficult targets, conduct protracted operations in remote areas or develop countermeasures to weapons of mass destruction, visit www.bids.tswg.gov.

Andrea Fitting is CEO of Fitting Creative, a Pittsburgh-based agency specializing in strategic marketing and breakthrough creative. Reach her at (412) 434-6934.