The recent State of the Union address by US president Obama had, to distant and detached eyes such as mine, three highlights. One, the incredible listing of policies that Obama plans to launch, in equal number to the ones that will never be passed by the Republican dominated legislator chamber. Obama spoke as if ignoring that his chances of anything done in the areas he mentioned was anything above zero.
The second, was the impromptu after the hostile reaction to his statement:’ I don’t have any more campaigns to run’. The Republican tribes clapped in joy. Obama replies: ‘I know, because I won both of them’.
The third is the YouTube interviews. YouTube, many people say ‘the new cable’ (TV), has is interviews with very young, very cheeky and very YouTube interviewers. But the President? It has never been done before. Some conservative ‘proper news channels’ were almost outraged by the apparent ‘lowering of standards’. I saw a clip with somebody saying, ‘For goodness sake, the most powerful man on earth giving interviews in YouTube?’ Said as if somebody has just discovered a prostitution ring.
But what ‘Obama people’ are showing with the last one, is a willingness to experiment and get out of boxes. The Obama campaigns have done these experimentations with great skill: the use of data, the digital world, etc. It’s far more serious and complicated than a tweeter account or a Facebook page. It is about understanding audiences, segments, generational differences, tailoring of the message and, at the same time, a solid and constant leadership and drive.
The original campaign system (and it is a complex system), ‘Organizing for Obama’, became ‘Organizing for America’. The grassroots movement, something they have mastered, will continue beyond his leaving. It can’t be stopped. There is a huge ‘organizational learning’ that will stay as a platform for human mobilization.
The organizational and business world has lots to learn in the same areas: experimentation with models, grassroots engagement, digital, segmentation of messages, etc. In all of them, we are well behind the political movement ‘a la Obama’.
The organizational and business world assumes is leading innovation but, when it comes to mobilizing people, it has a lot to learn. And not from Harvard or Harvard Business Review. The address is the one for the White House.