Innovation in Politics? I’m not Kidding!

It seems you’re likelier to find Amy Winehouse up bright and early, going for a run, than to find an American politician untainted by special interests. Unfortunately, that’s the usual angle we see when talking about the relationship between politics and business. Let me suggest another: innovation. That’s right, innovation. The Democratic campaign has been a real-life example of Apple vs. Microsoft, or Google vs. Yahoo. The innovator vs. the stalwart.  I’ll explain…

There are now two contenders for the democratic nomination, Senators Clinton and Obama. Despite their virtually identical voting records and positions on issues, one is clearly an innovator.

Senator Obama, the far less experienced politician, is selling an “integrated candidate experience”. Put simply, he’s engaging people on an emotional, sensory level. Though he’s selling almost the same wares, his are wrapped in hope and aspiration. Like Apple, he’s not selling you a music player, but the feeling of listening to music.

By contrast, Hillary Clinton seeks to engage your intellect. She’s the XBox 360 or the Zune (sorry, Microsoft, your failures are my content). Her message was built by a battery of brilliant, shut-in, engineers. They’ve crammed every possible feature and function into her, uhm, platform. Somehow, the sum of the parts does’t add up as she recites her resume line items. It’s the same reason the Nintendo Wii game system is flying off the shelves. It has far fewer features than either Sony’s PlayStation or Microsoft’s XBox, but it speaks to the non gamer in a way the others do not. (Yes, I know, they appeal to different audiences, but the idea is mass-market adoption, isn’t it?)

It remains to be seen which approach will work better. Of course, brain vs. heart isn’t the only force involved. Conservatism, race, gender, and other intangibles may end up playing just as big a role. However, the lesson stands. A far less experienced contender can challenge even the most entrenched incumbent by appealing to the emotional core of his target audience.

Maybe we’ll revisit this topic sometime before President McCain is inaugurated… Ha ha…