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Business, Featured - Written by on Wednesday, June 4, 2008 13:13 - 7 Comments

Don Tapscott
Obama’s victory and the power of wikinomics

I’m sitting in the airport lounge in Madrid, having just finished a fascinating conversation with Joseph Stiglitz (the Nobel prize winning economist) who happened to be sitting next to me. We (of course) were discussing the Obama campaign and what’s next.

We have both followed Barack Obama’s rise from political unknown to democratic party nominee with great interest – and have both written about it (you can see my previous blog posts here and here). Obama’s accomplishment is nothing short of extraordinary, and we agreed that his embrace of the power of mass collaboration and the Net Generation that was the difference.

I think Peter Leyden put it best (as quoted in Andrew Sullivan’s article Barack Obama is the master of the new Facebook politics):

“What’s amazing is that Hillary built the best campaign that has ever been done in Democratic politics on the old model – she raised more money than anyone before her, she locked down all the party stalwarts, she assembled an all-star team of consultants and she really mastered this top-down, command-and-control type of outfit. And yet she’s getting beaten by this political start-up that is essentially a totally different model of the new politics.”

Peter is exactly right – based on the old model, Hillary did absolutely everything that she was supposed to do. What she has learned, the hard way, is that the old model just doesn’t work anymore – and I think we will all be the better for it. Command-and-control is giving way to something far better.

If you look at the Obama campaign, a lot of attention has been paid to how he effectively leveraged new technologies, and particularly social networks, to galvanize an unprecedented amount of grassroots support – particularly from the Net Generation. Not only have they spared no effort in helping drum up support, his ever expanding network has turned into a political “money machine” the likes of which we have never seen before. Just think about it – over the course of about a year, Hillary Clinton went from having the best funded campaign, backed by most of the party stalwarts, aided by being part of one of the most famous families in politics of all-time, to making a convincing case over the last few months that she was the underdog. While she has tried to tar him with the brush of being “elitist,” the breadth of his support – and how he acquired it – shows that he is anything but.

But this story is about a lot more than a few Facebook and MySpace groups – Obama has embraced many of the other principles of wikinomics as well. Two of the most important are openness and transparency. Obama has been more open than any candidate in recent memory, and when problems with his campaign have emerged his responses have stayed true to these principles. When the issue of Rev. Wright emerged, the easiest, most politically expedient thing to do would have been to dissociate himself entirely – and that is what most politicians would have done, based on the old rules of the game. Obama chose a different path, and delivered a speech that we may all look back on one day as one of the most important in American history – one that might just open up a conversation on a topic few have been brave enough to speak about in such a thoughtful way. In a complex and ever-changing world, it is approaches like this that will give us all a chance to make it better – together.

The tools and the will to use the principles of wikinomics to change “politics as usual” have clearly been around for awhile, but it took the leadership of Obama to galvanize the support to start making it happen. It’s a great start, and one that will hopefully continue to reverberate throughout future political contests around the world – but not only can it be improved, there are a lot of other elements of the politics, economics and society where a similar transformation needs to take place.

When Obama wins the November election (barring unpredictable events — a likely outcome) he will have a new interesting challenge on his hands. Will the millions of young people he has mobilized be satisfied with just having changed the government? Or will then want to take the next step and want to be engaged? Could this be the beginning of some important changes in democracy and the body politique? For my thoughts on this matter please listen to my National Public Radio interview of last week.


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Susan Scrupski
Jun 4, 2008 17:23

For more detail on how Obama leverages social media, check out this post: http://tinyurl.com/2nxcms. Marc Andreessen talked to Obama privately on social networking too: http://tinyurl.com/35q8k9 I’m fairly certain the youth who’ve turned out to support Obama will be eager to engage. Will we see a community social media liaison in the new cabinet?

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[...] yesterday’s blog post about Obama’s victory, Don referenced his conversation with Joseph Stiglitz, who happened to be sitting next to him at [...]

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Nov 6, 2008 13:20

[...] Il terzo articolo “Obama’s victory and the power of wikinomics“, scritto a Luglio da Don Tapscott, l’autore di “wikinomics”, parla invece dei principi [...]

Nov 10, 2008 22:33

Not even a week after the president election the blond topblogger from Sweden, Linda Ekholm speaks out loud about Obama!
And I really believe this is truly written by heart. Scary!


Now available in paperback!
Don Tapscott and Anthony D. William's latest collaboration, Macrowikinomics: New Solutions for a Connected Planet. Learn more.

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