The 2008 Democratic Playbook... Winning the Google Way
Many of our corporate clients are chatting about the
The WSJ article was written by Gary Hamel, the director of the Woodside Institute and a visiting professor at the London School of Economics. Professor Hamel’s discussion of Google was aimed at corporate chieftains, but little did he know just how applicable his findings are to national Democratic Party dynamics.
Here are just a couple of Professor Hamel’s points about Google to which kingmakers in the Democratic Party should pay close attention:
1. “In recent years we have witnessed adaptation failures by incumbents across a wide variety of industries: airlines, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, newspapers, and recorded music. In many cases, companies haven't been changing as fast as the world around them. What the laggards have failed to grasp is that what matters most today is not a company's competitive advantage at a point in time, but its evolutionary advantage over time. Google gets this.”
What is the Democratic Party’s evolutionary advantage over time…? The Democratic Party used to be the principled protector and advocate for middle class voters and those aspiring to join the middle class. This constituency-based view of government served as an anchor and a constant reminder of the nameless millions of Americans who relied on Democrats for competitive wages, safer neighborhoods and effective schools.
Looking forward to 2008, Democratic kingmakers would be wise to shift the focus from their all-consuming parlor games of “who can win” and get out in the streets and valleys across the country and listen and learn about the realities of what it means to be middle class today. That’s something you can’t grasp from conducting a focus group.
2. “Executives often make the mistake of falling in love with a winsome business model. While fidelity is a virtue in marriage, it's a handicap in business. Google wants to grow its online ad business into the distant future, but its self-conception stretches far beyond its current revenue model. It is driven by an open-ended mission to organize the world's knowledge or, as one VP put it, raise the world's IQ. This vision animates a restless search for new opportunities.”
Just as Google recognizes that its best chance of winning the online ad business in the foreseeable future is tied to its vision about how the world will acquire, communicate and exchange knowledge in future generations; Democrats need to remember that retaking Congress this fall and the White House in 2008 is not a “business model.”
The electoral success Democrats covet is a byproduct of a vision that inspires passion, enthusiasm and selfless contributions of many different people united by a common goal. When the business model becomes a numbers game: tracking competitive seats, raising money and locking up consultants, failure is just around the corner… again.
3. “When power is concentrated at the top, a tradition-bound executive team can hold a company's capacity to change hostage to its own ability to adapt. That's why it usually takes a financial meltdown and leadership change to set a company on a new course.”
Democrats have had plenty of meltdowns recently, but no leadership changes. The cold hard truth is that for the last 25 years, the Democratic Party has been run by a small group of decision makers. When they came to
But that was then and this is now, and the Democratic Party needs more inclusive and representative leadership that reflects the true face of the party at the grassroots level where elections are won or lost. So long as the Democratic Party stubbornly honors its tradition, it misses the opportunity to groom and prepare the next generation of leaders who can connect with the vast numbers of young adults, minorities and women who don’t vote because they can’t see the difference Democrats and Republicans.
4. “Google has invested heavily in building a highly transparent organization that makes it easy to share ideas, poll peers, recruit volunteers, and build natural constituencies for change… In most companies there are rigidities that perpetuate historical patterns of resource allocation. Managers eager to defend their power horde capital and talent even when those could be better used elsewhere. A dearth of new strategic options means that legacy projects get over-resourced while the future goes begging.”
As The Hill recently reported, the staffs of Democratic Members of Congress are almost uniformly white and male. The numbers are even worse among political advisors, fundraisers, pollsters, media consultants and leadership of Democratic Party Committees.
Until the Democratic Party adopts policies and procedures to insure that the best ideas are heard and that the most qualified individuals are recruited, it will continue to operate more like a private club in which the newly initiated are mentored and sponsored by deep-pocketed family and friends.
Until this anachronism is replaced with a transparent process driven by results-based criteria that factors in true representation, Democrats will continue to spend vital resources on last minute GOTV efforts trying to make up with disaffected members of its base, while Republicans are free to pick away at swing voters
5. “Evolution demands a lot of new experiments; but experimentation takes time and money, scarce commodities when every hour of time and every dollar of capital have already been allocated to some "mission critical" project. That's why every Google developer can spend up to 20% of his time working on off-budget, out-of-scope projects. This time is more than a perk; it's Google's seed corn for the future. The payoff? In one recent period, more than half of Google's newly launched products could trace their origins to a 20% project.”
What is it about politics that makes otherwise shrewd, smart and sophisticated individuals throw accountability and results out the window? Given that Democratic fundraisers and big ticket donors continue to back the same horses that never win, is it at all surprising that the blogosphere is now the true environment for fresh ideas and voices coming from the Democrats?
Sure, much of what is posted in the blogosphere is unrealistic and otherwise infeasible, but as Google points out, all success needs is for one out of every five ideas to work. The odds are even better when those ideas come from five divergent points of view and personal experiences. I for one am willing to bet that a team of five disparate bloggers would give five of our party’s usual suspects a run for their money.
Oh yeah… that’s already happening, all across the country.