President-elect Barack Obama’s campaign is garnering attention for engaging millions of Americans in the political process. Not only did his campaign reach new heights in terms of the amount of money raised, and the number of people involved and connected, it has reshaped the political industry. The October 2008 Harvard Business Review includes a thought-provoking article entitled “Shaping Strategy in a World of Constant Disruption” by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown, and Lang Davison.
According to the article, “We live in an era of profound and accelerating change.”It posits that the old days – the days of technological change embodied by the steam engine and telephone – were typically periods of disruption caused by the new technology, followed by periods of stabilization.Companies and entire industries had a chance to catch up during those stabilization periods, thereby minimizing the long-term benefits gained by the early entrants.
As we know, the digital age has meant the end of stabilization as we knew it.We now live in an ongoing period of disruption driven by technology.“Today’s new digital infrastructure … gives relatively small actions and investments an impact disproportionate to their size.”As such, it allows companies to formulate “shaping strategies” to reshape industries, rather than merely adapt to them.
It occurred to me after reading the article that this is exactly what the Obama campaign did these past two years.It used a technology-fueled strategy to gain a competitive advantage, shape an industry and achieve success.His campaign has set new expectations for communication with and engagement of consumers (read “voters”).
When you look at the size of his war chest (still growing via donations to pay for the transition) there’s no doubt the investment in web-based communication and fund raising capabilities paid for themselves many times over.
This industry shaper continues to use his e-communications to keep us apprised of his plans. It’ll be interesting to see what future political campaigns look like and how his presidency employs technology long-term.