SALT LAKE CITY — Like the force of fire seeking oxygen, there are forces pushing the need for alliances in Utah, former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt told a group of business and community leaders Monday.
In the days after the Governor's Mansion burned on Dec. 15, 1993, the fire marshal showed Leavitt how the fire's absolute search for oxygen left even the nails in the light socket with heat and smoke damage.
"I’m of the view that the politics of the past are simply not going to work in this atmosphere," he said. "We’re going to reach a point where just like the fire was looking for oxygen under the light socket, there is going to be economic pressure that we have to begin to make decisions."
Those decisions, he said, are those of coming together in common pain, the first component to building an alliance.
"There are forces in our economy and in our world that when they begin to burn, they require oxygen," he said. "And it's that sense of Darwinian instinct to survive that ultimately begins to drive us to do many of the things we do."
Leavitt stressed to the audience of about 160 people some of the points discussed in a book he co-authored with Rich McKeown, president and CEO of Leavitt Partners, titled "Finding Allies, Building Alliances."
The first component, common pain, gives people a reason to act in a way that is counterintuitive and something they wouldn't do without a particular pressure.
"I would suggest that we're beginning to see that kind of pressure not necessarily by our political system, but by global economics," Leavitt said. "The next step is to find allies, to begin to build allies."
For example, Leavitt said the airline alliance in 1997 changed the entire economic system of the airline industry within three years. That change was made by sharing different systems, assets on the ground and reservation systems — an idea that would ordinarily be counterintuitive.
"Within three years, an airline could not compete unless they were part of one of the three major alliances," he said. "I think that's a very good example of what I have begun to see happen throughout the entire system."
Leavitt said the previous period where economic policies have been established by the federal government and by Congress is transforming to one that is affected more by world and global economics.
"I believe we’re entering a period where a whole series of things that are not particularly intuitive to us are going to have to happen or we’re going to end up with an economy that is sideways with the world," Leavitt said.
To become more competitive in the marketplace and survive, the former secretary of Health and Human Services said inventing new ways of doing things is necessary.
"I believe we’re seeing the world intuitively begin to organize itself into networks, and those who can, in fact, accomplish this most sufficiently will be leaders in the future," he said.
Following his speech, Leavitt addressed a question about the current system for nominating candidates for office.
Leavitt said he is a backer of the Count My Vote initiative, a plan to change Utah’s current caucus and convention system to a direct primary election.
He said the system is out of date and excludes many in the process, eliminating their ability to influence the system.
"By signing the petition, essentially what you're saying is we think the people of Utah ought to vote on the kind of system that they want," he said. "I think it's time for the system to change, and I think that there's good evidence that people want it changed."