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Introduction to Barack, Inc.: Winning Business Lessons of the Obama Campaign

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Barack Obama’s political pioneering set a brilliant standard for any business seeking to prosper in the Web 2.0 world of the 21st century. Barry Libert and Rick Faulk discsuss Obama’s campaign saga annotated for business use in this introduction to their book.
This chapter is from the book

Introduction

  • WHO AMONG US EVER FULLY BELIEVED THAT A CINDERELLA CANDIDATE COULD SOAR OUT OF ILLINOIS OBSCURITY AND BECOME THE 44TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, CONFOUNDING DOZENS OF WORLD-RENOWNED POLITICOS IN THE PROCESS? YET BARACK OBAMA MANAGED TO BEAT THE REPUBLICAN PARTY AT ITS OWN GAME WITH DISCIPLINE, ORGANIZATION, AND MASSIVE FUNDRAISING.

From his cooler-than-cool leadership style to his use of Internet-based social technologies to his basic message of change, Barack Obama showed businesspeople that they have a lot to learn from a savvy politician.

In the flush of Obama’s triumph, we need to recall his initial hurdles, all seemingly insurmountable. Here was a truly exotic presidential hopeful—a stranger with a Muslim-sounding name, an African father, a white American mother, a Hawaiian childhood, a Harvard law degree, and a political resume of perhaps 25 words or less. As he put it in his victory speech, “I was never the likeliest candidate for office.”

All sorts of moves, from tried-and-true tactics to cutting-edge strategies, turned Obama’s candidacy from improbable to inevitable. He assembled a first-class team of staffers who ran a nearly flawless campaign; he attracted tens of thousands of volunteers, many of them so dedicated that they left their jobs or dropped out of school to work on his election; and he collected an unprecedented amount of money, both from small contributors and big traditional donors. But we were especially riveted by the campaign’s prodigious use of social networking. That’s a subject we have studied in depth, and Barack Obama is tuned to our wavelength. He turned a 50-state presidential campaign into one enormous online community. His networking inspired millions of people across the United States to join a national crusade, pooling their skills, time, and dollars to achieve a decisive victory. As a result, American (and perhaps world) politics will never be the same.

We believe Obama’s political pioneering set a brilliant standard for any business seeking to prosper in the Web 2.0 world of the 21st century. Hence this book: Obama’s campaign saga annotated for business use.

We combined our own observations with those of a diverse group of media whose expertise was on display during this long, dramatic campaign. We interviewed Obama supporters, collected an array of superb reports from a variety of sources, and paid close heed to the blogosphere’s unprecedented election coverage—the latter a concatenation of diverse views and voices ranging from Politico to Twitter that did much to make 2008 a turning point in politics. Our goal was to tease out the relevance of this historic campaign to business leaders everywhere.

Let’s get started.

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