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Obama’s edge-based organization?

Posted by: on Nov 18, 2008 | One Comment

At the Harvard Business blog, John Sviokla is discussing what they call “Obama’s Edge-Based Organization.” He puts it this way:

What does it mean to have an edge-based organization? It means that everyone has situational awareness, skills to take action, shared values, and decision rights to empower the edge to take action (My thanks to my friends John Henderson and John Clippinger who have deeply influenced my thinking on this topic.) Obama’s campaign did all of these.

Obama used the internet to endow the very edges of his organization with all the tools to self-organize, to get out the message with sophisticated media. He even armed them with an Apple iPhone application that allowed you to compare your address book to the centralized Obama campaign phone logs and see if there was someone you knew who needed to be called by you – not the machine – to support Obama. (See also my earlier blog post on Obama’s use of the network compared to Hillary Clinton’s.)

Hmm, I am not sure I want to go all the way down the path with this. What are the edges of the organization, as opposed to independent actants that are allied to the network? To use one offhand example, it was one of Obama’s supporters at the periphery of his organization who broke perhaps the most damaging story about him. The article makes the organization sound much more coherent and unified than it actually seems to be.

1 Comment

  1. Jim
    November 19, 2008

    “The article makes the organization sound much more coherent and unified than it actually seems to be.”

    Yep, you’re dead on. In fact, this is essentially the basis of a talk I’ve been working on about community and the Web. If we take the example you’ve cited (a supporter outing Obama on the “clinging to guns and religion” comment) and to that Nate Silver’s story about a Washington, PA woman saying “I’m voting for the n*****,” we get a very different sense of what the “community” that helped elect Obama looks like. That community does not have a unified purpose (no matter what those feel-good ‘Yes, We can’ videos tell us).

    This is how all communities work, but the Web reminds us of this over and over again. And, for me, this is a good thing. Yes, such a messy community means less control. But it also means that more voices are heard. Obama has clearly decided to take the good with the bad.

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