Category: emergent chaos

Obama vs. McDonalds

As he was winning contests in Iowa and South Carolina, Senator Barack Obama raised $32 million in January for his presidential bid, tapping 170,000 new contributors to rake in nearly double the highest previous one-month total for any candidate in this election cycle.

The New York TImes, “Enlisting New Donors, Obama Reaped $32 Million in January

Which is to say that, in a month, Obama raised half a day’s revenue for McDonalds, who in the last quarter of 2007, took in 5,753.6 million dollars.

It’s too bad that (Presidential candidate) John McCain is opposed to Americans spending their money on something, like the Presidency, which really matters.

Now last time I mentioned this, a lot of people asked about public funding for elections. One of the things which I find interesting about this election cycle is that two candidates, Obama and Huckabee, essentially came out of nowhere. A system of public funding has to be restricted to serious candidates. We wouldn’t want Mike Huckabee to be treated the same as Vermin Supreme, would we?

How can a public funding system allow for “out of the blue” candidates who challenge their party’s accepted wisdom about who the nominee “should” be?

The Emergent Chaos of the US Presidential Campaign

This New York Times really is interesting. It’s all about how candidates are losing control of their campaigns, and they’re in a new relationship with emergent phenomenon on the internet.

Now, as we come to the end of a tumultuous political year, it seems clear that the candidates and their advisers absorbed the wrong lessons from Dean’s moment, or at least they failed to grasp an essential truth of it, which is that these things can’t really be orchestrated. Dean’s campaign didn’t explode online because he somehow figured out a way to channel online politics; he managed this feat because his campaign, almost by accident, became channeled by people he had never met.

Meanwhile, those candidates who have amassed roomfuls of well-paid online experts have frequently found themselves buffeted or embarrassed (or sometimes both at once) by mysterious forces outside their grasp. (“The Web Users’ Campaign,” The New York Times.)

How New Ideas Emerge From Chaos

einstein-blackboard.jpgThere’s an interesting contrast between “The Problem With Brainstorming” at Wired, and “Here’s an Idea: Let Everyone Have Ideas” at the New York Times.

The Problem with Brainstorming starts out with some history of brainstorming, and then moves to its soft underbelly: The tendency of groupthink to emerge from groups:

Thinking in teams, and pitching other people’s ideas rather than my own, I quickly found my freshest thoughts blending into a kind of generalized banality, a dollar-green cookie dough. Quantity there was, but the lack of a personal moral framework and the impossibility of being negative took quality off the agenda.

In sharp contrast, Let Everyone Have Ideas starts out:

[T]hey focus on an internal market where any employee can propose that the company acquire a new technology, enter a new business or make an efficiency improvement. These proposals become stocks, complete with ticker symbols, discussion lists and e-mail alerts. Employees buy or sell the stocks, and prices change to reflect the sentiments of the company’s engineers, computer scientists and project managers — as well as its marketers, accountants and even the receptionist.

The question of how to go from a stream of ideas to selecting and executing on the right ideas is a fascinating one. Serving your existing customers, by focusing on compatibility issues and gradual improvement, prevents you from making some leaps that a company with a smaller customer base can make. This is one of the reasons startups can bring new things to market quickly. (Clayton Christensen talks about this in The Innovator’s Dilemma.)

Let Everyone Have Ideas focuses not only on how to select ideas, but a way to execute on them, which is to turn effort and evangelism into shares on that internal market, so that if ideas pay off, when they do, those who backed them can get an ROI. Fascinating.

(Einstein blackboard from Hetemeel’s Dynamic Images page.)