Off Topic: Top Issues For Women Voters

I’m in DC this weekend. We really enjoyed the National Gallery of Art (my favorite artist was Monet) and the National Portrait Gallery. Here’s my favorite presidential portrait…

It’s hard to be in this city and not think about politics. Since the presidential candidates have been recently focusing on women voters, I dug into our consumer data to understand  how both women and men feel about 11 issues. It’s the same dataset that I used to analyze consumer sentiment towards the U.S. presidential candidates with the Net Promoter Score. As you can see in the graphic below:

  • Women and men have the same top issues. The top issues for selecting a president are the same for both men and women: improving the U.S. economy, trustworthiness of the candidates, their vision for the future, and their leadership skills.
  • Women care more about a lot of things. For 10 of the 11 issues on our list, more women than men felt that they were important.
  • Abortion and healthcare have the largest gender gaps. Women that see abortion rights as an important presidential issue outnumber men by 10 percentage points. Next on the list is abortion rights with an eight percentage point gap.
  • Men care more about energy. The candidates’ positions on the energy policy is the only issue that men care about more than women.

The bottom line: Women and men share the same top issues

Obama and Romney Promoters By Income and Employment

In my previous two posts, I examined the Net Promoter Scores (NPS) for President Obama and Mitt Romney and the issues that their Promoters care about.

In this post, I examine the percentage of U.S. consumers that are Promoters (likely to recommend the candidate to their friends or relatives) of the candidates based on their annual income levels and their current employment status. As you can see in the infographic below:

  • Obama has the largest advantage with consumers making less than $25,000 per year and the smallest lead with consumers making between $75,000 and $100,000 per year
  • Romney’s support increases with income level
  • Both of the candidates have their strongest support from high-income consumers
  • Obama has the largest advantage with students and the smallest lead with unemployed consumers

The bottom line: Obama’s strongest base are low income consumers and students

Leadership Insights From Obama’s Inauguration Speech

As for our brand, we reject as false the choice between cutbacks and our ideals

This is an edited excerpt from President Obama’s inauguration speech. In addition to delivering a powerful set of messages to US citizens and other people around the world, Obama’s words also contained extremely valuable lessons for executives trying to lead their organizations through the recession. Here’s my take on some insights in his speech:

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious, and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America: they will be met.

My take: Leaders need to communicate the reality about the difficult economic environment, but still maintain a vision of hope for employees (as well as customers, suppliers, and investors).

It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things – some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor – who have carried us up the long, rugged path toward prosperity and freedom.

My take: The success of a company comes from the day to day activities of all employees. So it is critical to keep them engaged in the shifts being made to react to the recession. How? By making sure to actively communicate and look for their help in finding solutions. Remember the 4th law of customer experience: unengaged employees don’t create engaged customers.

Our workers are no less productive when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions – that time has surely passed.

My take: It’s important to acknowledge the core strengths of the company, but recognize that this is a time for making tough decisions. This may call for cutting off entire initiatives while raising investments in others. As management guru Ram Charan recommends: Just say no to across-the-board cuts.

The state of our economy calls for actions: Bold and swift. And we will act not only to create new jobs but to lay a new foundation for growth.

My take: It’s time to take decisive action that protects your company in the short-term and also prepares the company for its post-recession future. Jeff Immelt, GE’s CEO, captured this nicely in his advice to GE’s top executives on how to manage through the recession: Keep your company safe but keep building the future.”

We will restore science to its rightful place and wiled technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its costs.

My take: Don’t just do less of the same thing in this downturn, rethink how you operate. Look for opportunities to use technology to create more even value at lower costs. For a great example of this type of thinking, just look at Aravind Eye Care.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between safety and our ideals… Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake

My take: Don’t forget the common purpose that holds your company together. Even in a downturn, make sure that decisions are consistent with the ideals of your brand. As Gandhi once wisely said: “All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take.”

The bottom line: Take this moment in time to rethink your leadership approach.

The Path From Rosa to Martin to Obama

All I can say is wow! President Obama’s speech was powerful and on-point. My next post will go over some leadership insights that can be drawn from his words, but for now I just want to share what a second grade teacher at our elementary school said about Obama…

Rosa sat so Martin could walk. Martin walked so Obama could run. Obama ran so our children could fly.

The bottom line: Well said!

Learning From Bush’s Leadership Mistakes

Given the upcoming presidential inauguration, it seems appropriate to look back at some lessons we can learn from President Bush’s tenure.  Rich Lowry, Editor of the National Review, listed 10 mistakes made by George Bush that shaped his presidency. While some issues are specific to the president’s situation, there’s a lot that leaders can learn from many of these errors. So here’s “my take” on some of the broader leadership issues:

  • An ineffective management style.
    My take: If you’re going to delegate, make sure you’ve got a good team. And don’t forget to question them and hold them accountable
  • Deferring to his generals.
    My take: For the important issues, listen for feedback from the front lines, not just your senior execs.
  • Not taking charge during Katrina.
    My take: When a crtitical issue hits, take charge and mobilize your best team ASAP.
  • Not reading enough history.
    My take: To borrow a quote: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
  • Refusing to settle the internal war within his administration.
    My take: Debate is good; backstabbing is unacceptable. If your team can’t work together, then someone needs to be let go.
  • Underestimating the power of explanation.
    My take: Making the right decision is only one piece of a solution; you need to “sell” it to employees and other constituents.

The bottom line: The US needs strong leadership; good luck Obama!

Obama Needs A Citizen Experience Officer

Bruce Nussbaum’s excellent Business Week blog has a post called Letter to President-Elect Obama: Here’s How To Build Your Innovation Dream Team. It recommends candidates for roles in Obama’s administration and also identifies a couple of new roles: Chief Innovation Officer and Creativity Advisory Board. 

I agree with Nussbaum. President-Elect Obama needs to make significant changes in the way government operates and should infuse innovation and design thinking into his administration. But I would also propose another position: Citizen Experience Officer

I often advise large organizations (banks. retailers, telcos, etc.) to put an executive in charge of their customer experience efforts; creating a position like Chief Customer Officer if they are committed to making improvements. These execs motivate, coordinate, and accelerate the focus on customers across an organization. 

If President-Elect Obama wants to significantly improve the relationship between the US government and the US people, then a Citizen Experience Officer (the public sector version of a Chief Customer Officer) makes a lot of sense. What would a Citizen Experience Officer do? As the rest of the Cabinet overhauls governmental policies, this person can help make the government easier to work with, one interaction at a time.

In particular, a Citizen Experience Officer could:

  • Establish a comprehensive Voice-Of-The-Citizen program to make sure that the needs of citizens are driving the design of all interactions and are incorporated in decision making.
  • Improve the usability of federal government Websites and other self-service channels like kiosks and phone self-service to lower the cost of interactions.
  • Make all government communications (instructions, etc.) easier to understand so that government will become more accessible.
  • Redesign processes to make them more citizen-friendly and to simplify interactions with government agencies.
  • Develop and execute a communications and training plan for government employees to infuse a citizen-centric focus across all government organizations.
  • Share best practices for citizen-centricity across federal agencies and departments.

The bottom line: It’s not audacity to hope for better government experiences

Off Topic: Obama’s Victory Speech

I was on a flight to London when Obama was projected to win the election and when he gave his victory speech. But I was able to see the video and read the transcript at my hotel. I thought it was a great speech. It covered most of the 6 steps that I outlined for the president to revive “Brand USA.”

Rather than basking in the glory of the victory, Obama renewed his vow for change. Rather than celebrating the excitement of the moment, he defined a vision for the future. Rather than promoting the strength of the Democratic party, he made a plea for unity. Rather than focusing on his presidency, he framed the challenges and opportunities for the American people.

Here are some of my favorite parts of his speech: Read more of this post

6 Steps For The President To Revive “Brand USA”

I just read some comments from U2’s Bono about the importance of the upcoming US presidential election. Here’s the part that caught my eye:

The whole world has a stake in how things turn out. The way the U.S. is perceived — “Brand USA” — also means something. And it’s never been so closely watched… it’s a great chance to relaunch Brand USA

My take: Bono’s approach of framing the US challenges in terms of our “branding” makes a lot of sense. I like the idea of applying private sector thinking to the public sector. With that in mind, I’ve applied my 6 new management imperatives to the role of the US president. So here’s some advice for Barack Obama or John McCain in leading a revival of “Brand USA:”

  1. Invest in culture as a corporate asset: The national debt, federal deficit, and stock market devaluation are indications of our country’s economic woes. But there’s a more fundamental indicator of the US situation: the deteriorating attitudes, values, and goals of the American people — our US culture. The new president needs to define and communicate a clear vision for America with the goal of instilling a sense of pride, hope, and optimism in the American people. An improved US culture will align the actions of US people with initiatives like cutting back on oil consumption and help propel a strong, vibrant recovery.
  2. Make listening an enterprisewide skill. The world is in flux. The economic downturn is not a US issue, it’s a global issue. Severe problems like AIDS, global warming, and Bird Flu transcend sovereign borders. One fact is clear, the US can not succeed by acting unilaterally. To flourish in this interlinked world, the president will need to establish better lines of communications with and facilitate better coordination across all of the key countries and regimes around the world. He’ll also need to look for ideas and insights across political lines.  The new president will need to embed listening throughout his administration as a foundation for formulating strategies and policies.
  3. Turn innovation into a continuous process. We can’t keep going down the same path on critical issues like health-care, national security, energy, and the environment and expect to wind up with different, better results. Let’s face it, no legislative bill can fix these problems. What’s the answer? As Michael Porter has said: “Innovation is the central issue in economic prosperity.” So instead of pinning his hopes on big-bang solutions, the new president needs to create an environment (legislation and persuasion) that actively fosters coordinated and ongoing innovations in the private sector to improve these mega-issues.
  4. Provide a clear and compelling purpose. People need to know that the US stands for good, positive virtues. Why? So Americans will feel more connected (and committed to actualizing those virtues) and people in other countries won’t continue to think of the US as a big bully. So the next president needs to clearly define and articulate an inspiring vision for the country. Think about how much clarity the Ritz-Carlton credo provides for its customers, partners, and employees:
    “The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission… The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.”
  5. Extend and enhance the digital fabric. Over the last 10 years, there’s been enormous advances in information technology (IT). Yet the US government, like many organizations, has not taken full advantage of IT opportunities. Why not? Because it’s difficult to change old processes, break through outdated thinking, and overcome parochialism. But the new president should aggressively take on these challenges and use IT to streamline governmental processes, coordinate information and analysis across departments, and dramatically increase Web self-service for citizens and government employees. The result: a lower-cost, more effective US government.
  6. Practice good social citizenship. As one of the most prosperous nations on earth, we need to make sure that we we take care of the needy in our country as well as helping those in less prosperous countries.  We also need to take a lead in fighting some of the world’s key problems like the global warming, world hunger, and AIDS. The new president should be a highly visible leader in attacking these problems. 

The bottom line: It’s up to the next president to make “Brand USA” one of the most admired brands in the world.

Take A Look At Yahoo! Election Dashboard

I just read that Obama is 4% ahead of McCain. It seems like every day there’s a new poll that talks about a few percentage points separating the presidential candidates. But what does that mean? At this stage in the election, I really miss Tim Russert who used simple language and easy-to-understand diagrams to describe the complex political environment.

In the spirit of easy-to-use political charts, Yahoo! has put together a really good rich Internet application (RIA) for examining the election state-by-state. It provides a ton of insight into the battle for the White House.

The bottom line: This is a great example of a very useful and usable RIA.

Obama And McCain Sites Fail The Usability Test

I just published a report called Presidential Candidate Sites Fail Usability that examined the usability of John McCain’s and Barrack Obama’s Web sites. We applied 5 of the 25 criteria from Forrester Web Site Review methodology. Our evaluation tested two scenarios: 

  • Make a $50 contribution on the candidate’s site
  • After seeing all of the news about the candidates’ different energy policies, user wants to quickly find an overview of the candidate’s energy policy.

Here’s how the sites fared:

These results are not very good. Interestingly, both sites failed our privacy and security criteria. This was a problem that I highlighted last November when I evaluated the six major candidates at that time (McCain was not included in that analysis).

The bottom line: Obama and McCain should make it easier for their online constituents.

Five Lessons From Clinton/Obama Battle

Hillary Clinton ended her run at the presidency; suspending her candidacy and endorsing her rival Barack Obama. What can we learn by looking back at the battle between the Democratic candidates?

(While this post is about politics, it’s not meant to be political. But I do want to provide full disclosure: I was initially leaning towards Clinton, then became a fan of McCain when my family saw him in a small town hall meeting in New Hampshire, but ended up supporting Obama.)

As it turns out, there are several things that businesses can learn from the Obama/Clinton campaigns. Bruce Nusbaum offered an interesting post called Why Clinton Lost To Obama. Obama Designed A Better Campaign that described three areas where Obama beat out Clinton: Digital networking, voter experience, and Gen X. Looking more broadly at what it means for businesses, I came up with these five key lessons:

  1. A clear purpose drives affiliation. Abraham Lincoln said: With public sentiment nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Clinton lacked a clear platform for driving sentiment, while Obama’s message of hope and change cultivated a stronger emotional connection with voters. Companies need to provide a strong sense of purpose because brands need to stand for something in the eyes of customers and employees need to feel like they are a part of something that has meaning.
  2. Young consumers require special treatment. There are 100 million US consumers between the ages of 18 and 41. My research has shown that Gen Y are a different breed: they’re socially fluid and highly networked, emotionally searching for their identities, and mentally fickle and creative. In some cases, Gen X is more like Gen Y than they are like older consumers. Obama did a better of job tailoring his message, using technology, and developing field operations to reach these young consumers. Businesses also need to refine their product and marketing efforts to tap into this large segment. But that’s not all, they also need to prepare for a growing number of Gen Y employees.
  3. Social media enables powerful conversations. It used to be that politicians used mass media to blast their message out and intimate events to drive their fund-raising. If that were still the status-quo, then Clinton would probably be the Democratic nominee. The rise of Web 2.0 and social computing technologies (here’s more information about this groundswell) enabled Obama to touch a broader audience with his message and fund-raising appeal. Firms need to rethink how they communicate with customers; shifting the paradigm from mass marketing to a continuous dialogue. 
  4. Don’t underestimate a strong front-line organization. Clinton looked like the clear front-runner early in the campaign, but the battle continued on through the primaries in just about every state. While I’m not a political expert, I’ve read that Obama built a stronger field organization. This type of infrastructure is critical for long-term success. The lessons for firms is that you can’t neglect your field (front-line) operations; they’re a critical asset. You need to cultivate those employees with ongoing investments in communications, motivation, best practice sharing, celebrations, and training.
  5. Issues need to be addressed proactively. When incendiary racial sermons from Reverend Jeremiah Wright landed on television, it seemed as if Obama’s campaign was destined to fall off the tracks. But Obama took on the issue directly and responded with a powerful speech on race relations. Executives can learn from Obama’s approach of proactively tackling thorney issues and establishing a context for constituents (customers, employees, investors, etc.) to interpret the situation. Here’s an excerpt from Obama’s speech…

“…That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems…  But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races… The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country… is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past…”

The bottom lines: I was torn between two quotes for ending this post, so I decided to go with both of them…

Groucho Marx: “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”

Mahatma Gandhi: “The Roots of Violence: Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Knowledge without character, Commerce without morality, Science without humanity, Worship without sacrifice, Politics without principles.”

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