The Origin of Mixed Tables

John Rogers - Founder RL Leaders


The idea of a mixed table or, as I call it, multi-platform thinking, was introduced to me relatively early in my career.  

At the time, I was Les Aspin’s national political director and campaign manager.  Les was a Congressman from Southeastern Wisconsin and represented communities such as Janesville, Beloit, Lake Geneva, Racine and Kenosha.  The District is now served by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

It was the early 90’s and Aspin was the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.  He was an MIT, Yale and Oxford educated deep-thinker with a PhD in economics and a passion for Defense and foreign policy issues.  He was brilliant and my mentor.

The cold war was recently over and Aspin was trying to help Democrats and the presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee, Bill Clinton, figure out the future of Defense and foreign policy approaches..  At the time, Democrats were largely seen as weak on Defense, an enduring hangover from their opposition to the Vietnam War.

Aspin and his member services team, led by a very smart man named Larry Smith, approached the issue by implementing a program called Mixed Tables.  The idea was simple, bring together Democrats who normally don’t talk to each other in different locations around the country and hear what they were thinking in terms of policy approaches, while at the same time Aspin had the opportunity to convey his thoughts on the issues.   


So, we convened retired generals, CEO’s from the Defense industry, campaign operatives, PR and marketing pros and other leaders throughout the nation to get different perspectives and thinking on various policy approaches.  Establishing a dialog amongst those who otherwise probably wouldn’t be talking to each other about the related topics.

I thought the idea was genius. It also worked.  Out of this effort much of the original architecture of the Clinton Defense Blueprint and the Bottom Up Review was born.

For me, what it did was open my eyes to the power of collective thought.  It’s a breadth issue not only a depth issue.  As the world has become more complex the need for different approaches to problem solving has never been more needed. I’ve carried it forth my entire career and indeed the Deep Applied Creativity platform that RL Leaders is famous for was born from this.

So once again, I say thanks Les for helping me become who I am today.   


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