Fast Company

Lessons From the Obama Campaign Part II

Yesterday I began my review of the innovators and strategies that the Obama campaign employed to win the presidency. Here is another tried and true method for success that you can implement into your own business strategy.

Coordinate the uncoordinated

In my work with Wal-Mart, we identified this innovative pattern as historically critical to Wal-Mart’s success. It plays on the fact that power is a function of coordination – not of assets. It does not matter what assets you own. All that matters is what you can coordinate.

The Obama campaign used the latest techniques to organize “uncoordinated” volunteers. They used Facebook and Twitter, they coordinated a massive CRM (customer relationship management) database, and they reached out with email campaigns, registration sites and donation sites to make it easier than ever for Obama supporters to take part in the campaign.

And that tactic worked. Much of Obama’s over $600 million in funds raised was donated in small amounts by individuals. This created a massive grass-roots movement that the McCain campaign had too little time to respond to. Microsoft is being attacked by this same innovation pattern – coordinate the uncoordinated – from multiple dimensions.

Wikipedia was able to organize uncoordinated experts, and has now taken Microsoft Encarta’s position as the most popular encyclopedia. Open sources software, by coordinating uncoordinated programmers, has created a new form of competition to threaten traditional software companies. What matters is how these assets are coordinated to win overwhelming power at the point of competitor conflict. The Obama campaign organized previously uncoordinated voters at an unprecedented scale, and it was able to overpower the McCain campaign.

An ancient military principle holds that the size of your assets plays no direct role on the probability of success. This is why an unbent bow has no power, but only has power when its assets – its string, bow, and arrow – are drawn into the proper formation. You can create great power by simply coordinating around you what has not been previously coordinated.

We could go on and on dissecting the patterns that contributed to Obama’s success. But use this one to identify what you want to see in your company, your moment, your innovation today:

1. Who can I coordinate?

2. What needs to be coordinated?

3. How can coordination streamline my company or product?

 

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