Political campaigns a la 2008 and 2012 Obama ones, have well understood, and mastered the art of profiling. Hardly a new concept, these campaigns, particularly the 2012, have elevated profiling to levels of maximum sophistication. In its simplest translation, a connected mum, very active in the local school and worried about education funding or education quality, gets no personal message (by the local activists) about health care reform, youth employment, or the trade balance, let alone the Iran threat. A 90 year old activist campaigning from his bedroom with a laptop (loaded with data) and a phone, (there are public videos showing this), is not targeting 20 year olds and talking about unemployment, but to other people of similar age and about Medicare.
Does it make sense? Yes, it does, of course. But, if it does, we, in business organizations have lost the plot, because we do not segment anybody, other than in performance terms. And talent management. High, medium, average, underperforming etc. That’s it.
The top-down communication systems in which most management practices are based upon, assume equality and uniformity. Translation: everybody is equal, everybody needs to hear the (same) message, everybody needs to get the same, cascaded down powerpoints. This is what I describe as ‘World I’ in Homo Imitans (you can download that chapter here). Town Hall meetings, top down management communications, departmental briefings, they all get the same messages. It’s like a one big, single, Annual Report, downloaded to each brain in the payroll. Companies may be good at external segmentation (costumers), maybe, but they are very poor at internal segmentation. One message, in tsunami mode.
The Obama campaign mega-profiling was possible due to the smart use of gigantic data available, sophisticated technology, and an obsession with de-centralisation and grass roots. Incidentally the Republican party had access to the same data but was very bad as its use, the technology failed them, and there were not as de-centralised and localized as the Obama camp. You can argue that we, in organizations, are not near having the richness of data that political campaigns have about citizens. Sure. But we don’t tailor much anything inside. When it comes to customers, we have segmentation data. When it comes to the workforce, we have names in the payroll, salaries and organization charts. If we said that the Obama managers ‘knew their voters’, we should say that we, in business organizations, ‘don’t know our employees’.