Playing Offense With Big Data

For your interest, here is my latest blog for the leadership foundation IFS in South Korea: “Playing Offense With Big Data.”  Enjoy.

And look for my new book out later this year: The Insurgent Advantage: How to Win in the Richest and Riskiest Business Environment Ever.

As we get ready for 2015, and new challenges, I thought you’d enjoy this short 45 second video we just cut called “Magician, Strategist, Consultant.”  It features some of my favorite quotes from Keynotes this year.

Good luck and Play Offense.

Playing Offense with Big Data 2.0

“In God we trust,” the legendary management consultant W. Edwards Deming once proclaimed. “All others must bring data.”

Big Data has now become the catch phrase within the business and political worlds. Only a few years ago, the first generation of “big data” analysis software was able to take in lots of information, but could not incorporate analyses or go the next step in terms of relevant answers. It was “stupid” software that required intensive work by programmers to implement any changes. Today, by contrast, the next generation of data—I call it “Big Data 2.0”—can incorporate incredible discoveries by analyzing mountains of information almost instantly. These more advanced “thinking machines” can synthesize seemingly unrelated data, enhance iterative models to predict and improve the ability of employees to do their job—and they can help candidates win elections, too.

As an advisor to both Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, I believe the 2012 victory combined the best of both worlds: polling and analytics. On the one hand, analytics requires calling lots and lots of undecided voters to give shape to their profile. And on the other hand, polling seeks to screen the “horse race” question of who is ahead, and test more rigorously for those likely to actually cast a vote. In 2012, this dual approach—polling and analytics—allowed us to see movements normally too small to spot.

The breakthrough in the 2012 Obama campaign was moving from the old “quarantining” of small samples that could be treated as representative of the whole to “AGGREGATING” projections about voter opinions and behaviors. This Big Data 2.0 approach abandoned traditional polling, old political geographies, and conventional demographic categories. Instead, it looked at electorates as a collection of individuals. And it allowed us to run a national campaign like a local ward election—touching individual voters, recognizing and knowing people by name.

Over several decades, our insurgent approach was forged from advising 16 winning global presidential campaigns—and was first developed in our work with Apple’s Steven Jobs. Back in the late 1980s, the young Apple founder invited us Cupertino to talk about how to “win an election”—because Jobs loved the black and white, do or die, life and death elements that go into winning 50.1% on election day. Jobs saw before us the power of transferring this life and death approach to the business world—where, too often, there are too many excuses for missing too many objectives. So Jobs helped us realize that the concept of insurgency—moving strategically on the offense to control the competitive dialogue—applies equally to the political and business worlds.

Thirty years later, this means translating the insurgent principles from politics to business—and back again. And this translation has helped our clients be more mobile, flexible, fast and aggressive. And it’s helped some of history’s greatest CEOs, companies, and leaders—and also some amazing start-up companies that you will hear about soon.

Today, the key to winning the elections and building the businesses of tomorrow boils down to the advantages of strategic insurgency and information—translating data into answers and concepts into actions faster than your competitors. Winning in the present complex, changing, and hyper-competitive environment demands a very new and different approach—and using Big Data 2.0 strategically is the new fuel to winning.

Think back to where this in some ways began: In 1989, the birth of the Internet revolutionized everything. Much of our modern world is inconceivable without it. Today, consumers have access to well over a trillion web pages. And the computer on each of our cell phones is more than a 1,000,000 times cheaper, a 1,000 times more powerful, and 100,000 times smaller than MIT’s famous 1965 mainframe.

In this context, over the next two years, elections will be fought at the confluence of social media, digital technology, and web search. First, you must deploy what we call “hypothesis testing” out into the future. And second, you must take advantage of what I call “Big Answers” data analytics that combine behavior, demographic, and psychographic information.

As hockey great Wayne Gretzky once said: We must focus “On where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

In fact, as Steve Jobs argued, companies must understand not just where consumers are today, but where they are going tomorrow…. And the same is true of where voters are going tomorrow—winning elections means understanding where voters, like consumers, are going to be.

More specifically, I see six future voter and consumer drivers that all successful candidates and campaigns, leaders and businesses, must understand and master:

Choice: Voters—indeed all constituents—have more choices today … and they know it. Developing a clear and clearly differentiated value proposition—what we call relevant differentiation from the competition—is more important than ever before, in both politics and business.

Control: All individuals make choices that help enhance their sense of control—of their own health and security, their safety and the well being of their families, and their overall economic comfort and prosperity. Today, control is the fundamental and central driver of all perceptions. And we don’t expect that to change any time soon.

Customization: Since people have more choices, and more information about the choices they have, they are increasingly sophisticated and cynical. They are tough voters and consumers; and they no longer accept the proposition that “one size fits all.” Customization, in fact, rules politics and business today.

Connection: This is a high-value factor that has, of course, been defined and enhanced by the Internet. Today, voters and consumers expect leaders and businesses to be a part of connection—not just connecting citizens to each other, but to policy and life solutions. Voters and consumers of all ages consider this driver as a crucial and evolving lifestyle ingredient.

Convenience: Convenience has grown in importance as our lives have become more rushed and crowded. Today, the concept of convenience is attached closely to the concept of choice: People want what they want when, where, and how they want it; in other words, on their own terms.

Change: Today, change is the fuel for political campaigns and for successful businesses. Politically, given that voters across the global electorate are chronically dissatisfied with the status quo, the candidates, leaders, and governments that hold the insurgent advantage stand for change. They are reform leaders. And voters around the world expect these leaders to ride ahead of today’s status quo and help guide and navigate them toward the future—and again, this change leadership is a quality you see in the world’s best CEOs today.

Looking ahead, these six drivers will be as important for tomorrow’s CEOs as they are for future political leaders. And politically, tomorrow’s global leadership campaigns will be focusing on these six future voter drivers. In fact, some of the great world leaders will develop policies and agendas that help make voters feel they are on the right side of these six critically important electoral drivers.

Look at the leaders who are winning and succeeding today. They are the “insurgent reformers.” Recently, Narendra Modi was elected as a change candidate in India; UKIP and Nigel Farage won the EU elections on a platform of change; and the number one leader, the most respected and most effective leader in the world today heads a 1000-year-old-plus institution: Pope Francis.

Proprietary research we’ve conducted—involving over 3,200 interviews—shows there has never been greater dissatisfaction with the status quo of government in the US today; and that there has never been greater support for a new, independent, even third party “reform-first” agenda. This platform beats the leading U.S. candidate, Hillary Clinton, by almost 30 points.

This unprecedented hunger for change is why winning candidates and companies must combine the best of data science and analytics with the best of insurgent strategy…. we think of it as a 1 + 1 = 7 synergy. And it’s the new way to win the political and leadership campaigns of tomorrow.

David E. Morey is Chairman and CEO of DMG Global, a strategic consultancy with offices in the US and across Asia. He is the author of the best-selling book TheUnderdogAdvantage and is Adjunct Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Morey has advised 16 winning global presidential campaigns and today works with the leaders of some of the world’s largest companies.

Best regards,

David Morey
Author, The Underdog Advantage
Vice Chairman, Core Strategy Group
CEO, DMG, Inc.


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