Great political campaigners think big and think small

Two contrasting quotes that capture my fancy also capture the two conflicting approaches that good political campaigners need to reconcile.

First, here’s Clive Woodward on winning the Rugby World Cup with England:

Winning the Rugby World Cup was not about doing one thing 100% better, but about doing 100 things 1% better.

That’s the same philosophy as the one that gave British cycling a Head of Marginal Gains. Relentless focus on taking what you do and making it a bit better, again and again and again.

However, that’s not all there is to success. It’s not only that the marginal gains may take you into a cul-de-sac. It’s also that they are, well, marginal.

Google is in many ways the best example of that iterative process in the technology sector, repeatedly tweaking and improving its core products. Yet as Google, and then Alphabet, Chief Executive Larry Parry warned,

Companies tend to get comfortable doing what they’ve always done, with only a few minor tweaks. It’s only natural to work on the things you know … [But] if you look at most companies, they never do anything different, and they run into problems for that reason.

In other words, you need to be willing to look at making big changes in direction as well as small iterative improvements. (Hence, ahem, the Lib Dem strategy which with its mix of small improvements as well as a radical change in party approach captured by the elements such as a core votes strategy.)

Good campaigns manage both: both the attention to detail which keeps on making the detail better, and also the ability to spot the big picture about how communication and society is changing.

2 responses to “Great political campaigners think big and think small”

  1. Agreed to both, but there is a danger in the second. The records of company failure are full of companies that had a secure market but perceived it as gradually declining, or did not judge it enough, and embarked on radical changes to move into new markets where they failed against better-established opponents; but the changes alienated their previously loyal customers. In the case of a political party, you seek new supporters, but you don’t **** off the people who curently are the loyal voters or activists.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments and data you submit with them will be handled in line with the privacy and moderation policies.