Mark Cuban has a great post up at Blog Maverick titled, “Why You Should Never Listen To Your Customers.” In it he relates the tale of a company with which he was involved. The company asked its customers what features they would like to see in the product while the competition just went ahead and innovated. When the two products were released the competitor’s product rocked.
Cuban’s company again went to the customers and asked what features they’d like to see, and most of the features they listed were the features their competitor now had.
His takeaway is simple. Someone is going to “kick your ass.” Will it be you? Or your competitors?
While his is a tale of business, the fact is this story could apply to countless campaigns and political organizations. If you’re too busy navel gazing, or too caught up in what the other guy has that you don’t, you’ll lose site of your mission.
We saw this during the run up to 2008. Online, the GOP was caught in an endless circle of “what we’re doing wrong” and “how we can change to be more like the Democrats.” I was one of those pointing out our deficiencies. Had you asked most GOP consultants what “features” they wanted in 2008, they would have pointed to the things the Dems were doing – ACTBlue, TPM, CAP, etc, etc.
When the Washington Post ran a page one, above-the-fold story quoting me saying the GOP was losing online, I had the same epiphany Cuban had. I was guilty of letting the other guy kick my ass. I decided we needed to kick our own ass, instead.
Many GOP organizations are still in the same boat as Cuban’s company. Instead of innovating, they’re mimicking the competition. They say, “We want a website like Barack Obama’s” instead of asking what’s next.
Engineering legend Alan Kay said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” That’s true in politics as well as technology. The GOP needs to invent the future, not build to the past.