Is the idea of “paint-by-numbers” at the core of America’s decline?

In his current book – Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle – author Chris Hedges examines why so many industries in America are on decline into oblivion.

In large part, Hedges blames universities which have stifled critical and creative thinking in favor of process disciplines. Creating educated process clones is more attractive to deep-pocket donors than fresh new creative concepts.

Process thinking – akin to paint by numbers – is based mostly on “follow the leader” and copying something that someone else has done, whether effective or not. Process thinking, Hedges asserts, leads eventually to a form of decay in any business or industry.

Homeland Security’s process thinking failed to prevent the so-called “underwear bomber” terrorist from flying to Detroit in 2009 even though the “intelligence” people knew the guy had boarded a plane in Ghana with intent to reach the U.S. “Our process failed,” admitted a Homeland Security official on PBS NewsHour. In that case, nothing happened because the terrorist’s underwear failed to explode.

We see process thinking in many areas of the American culture, from the processes by TSA at the nation’s airports and car manufacturing to the dying newspaper industry and the field of communications – PR, marketing and advertising. The common thread is that people were taught/trained to think linearly, with no imagination or creativity to be daring. Clerks at Walmart are trained in process.

There are very few people in leadership and influence who are daring. The late Steve Jobs was an exception. He had a vision, disregarded conventional wisdom and built Apple into the richest company America has ever seen … all within 15 years. Why are other companies, from Dell to GM, dying? Fear and desperately clinging to old and broken business disciplines … even though they might envy Apple’s success.

“The media, both print and television, has lost its way, and as a result, reader and viewership,” writes Dr. Eric Mondschein.

“Seeing readership decline year after year, is painful, not only for the papers, but because it means fewer and fewer citizens are learning what is happening in their communities or the world. Many write the loss off to the Internet. I disagree. The people I talk to are frustrated by the bias, the lack of objectivity in the coverage and the lack of real news, not the sensationalism being foisted on them daily by the media.”

In mainstream media, the business was outdated years before the Internet. Except for technology, the news business has not changed in a century.

Lead story – anchor chuckle – feel-good feature – weather – more anchor chuckle – sports.

Look at TV news and former leaders, like CNN, now wondering in a daze, bewildered by lack of audience. It’s because the fundamental style of TV news has not changed in more than a half century. No one stole CNN’s audience … CNN replaced reporting the news with spectacle.