• 06.03.09

An Innovation Lesson from Politics?

What businesses can learn from Obama

I can’t think of many lessons that I have learned from Politics but we should take a lesson from the Obama administration.  To succeed in tough times, you need to be committed to a “Big Purpose”.  In Politics it would be easy to make decisions based on short-term polls and criticism, but rather than do that, the Obama administration has stayed focused on his purpose for running the first place…to “change the world”.


Likewise, in tough times, it’s easy for CMO’s to get caught up in line of site short-term results.  But companies who focus on the “bigness of their purpose” will continue to standout in the 21st Century.  

Having a big purpose is not a new idea, just one that’s easily forgotten in tough times. A former client, Gallo, was started 75 years ago with one purpose: to make a wine for every table. A big purpose but one that continues today and while not published; I would guess their share of the US wine industry to be in the neighborhood of 40%.  Not bad.  

For a long time, a redesigned bumper or grill have been masked by Detroit slogans like “An American Revolution. Quite a contrast to a company like Better Place ( whose purpose is to catalyze the transition to sustainable transportation.  Or Google who set out with one purpose: to create “the perfect search engine” for organizing the world’s information and making it accessible.

Sounds easy but it’s harder to do. As I write this, people everywhere are questioning whether the Obama administration is taking on too much. Seems to me, you have to do a lot to “change the world”.  Likewise, as difficult times put pressure on you to trade your big purpose for short-term performance, remember one of my favorite quotes from Michelangelo: “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”  Over the coming months, companies will be more than ever eager to find elegant and inventive solutions to their problems, but success will depend on the size and compelling nature of the idea itself.