Political Innovation Insights

The political landscape is changing with technology to the benefit of savvy candidates and voters.

Technology now allows political candidates and voters to connect directly without the need for a cable or satellite subscription.

Innovative political campaigns are fully embracing this shifting paradigm and reallocating traditional resources to non-traditional services such as Campaign Wi-Fi and OTT Video.

Campaign Wi-Fi allows campaigns to setup mobile Wi-Fi networks and collect opt-in data on all attendees at a rally.

OTT video allows the campaign to have a direct on-demand political news channel that can be consumed anywhere without a cable or satellite subscription.

OTT Video services and messaging apps are going to replace traditional media buys and political mailers.

Our insights into political innovation are listed below in the form of articles for your perusal.

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The Road to The White House in 2016 starts with Innovation

When the 45th President of the United States of America is sworn into office on Jan. 20, 2017, it will be a moment to rejoice and reflect upon how one person reached the highest office in the land.

To get there, the newly elected president would have been forced to make difficult decisions, which led to winning his (or her) party’s nomination for president.

One of those decisions is whether to embrace innovation and technology, or pass it over as a mere blip on the radar. The candidate who disregards innovation and technology will not become the 45th president. Instead, victory will go to the candidate who wholeheartedly embraces it.

This is partially due to the fact that 58 percent of American adults have a smartphone, according to the Pew Internet Project, and there are now more broadband Internet subscribers in the United States than cable TV subscribers for the first time in history. The old ways of reaching potential voters via snail mail and TV ads are dying. Opt-in email has replaced snail mail, and SnapChat is well on its way to replacing the traditional TV advertising, with current advertising rates between $50,000 to $100,000 a day for 500,000 to a million daily impressions, according to ReCode.

As SnapChat continues to grow and defy expectations, Vice Media, led by co-founder and CEO Shane Smith, could be the voice of the next generation. Mr. Smith subscribes to a platform-agnostic business model that is the future model for any company that creates and distributes content. Frankly, it’s a business model to which every political campaign, no matter how small or large, should subscribe. It’s the future.

Mr. Smith sums up Vice Media’s business model this way: “We’re platform-agnostic. For us, it’s about how do you get to all screens? It’s not a question of can TV migrate to online? If that’s the question, you’re already dead, because online is mobile, and that’s the future.”

Mr. Smith is correct — mobile is the future and it is growing rapidly with both traditional and Latino-American demographics. Each voting demographic will play a key role in the 2016 election.

The Latino-American voting power will continue to grow as this demographic is adopting smartphones at a higher rate than any other demographic group in the United States, according to 2014 the U.S. Digital Consumer Report, published by Nielsen.

Latino Americans now watch an average of 6 hours and 22 minutes of video a month on their smartphone compared to the average American who watches 5 hours and 48 minutes. In the 2014 midterm election, there were a record 25.2 million Latino-American citizens (11 percent of all eligible voters) eligible to vote.

These demographics should serve as a stark reminder to every potential presidential candidate and campaign manager that 2016 is going to be different. It will be the first presidential race that will be dominated by technology mistakes and technological triumphs.

In 2008 and 2012, President Obama won election and re-election partially owing to the fact that he empowered his team to develop and implement an innovation strategy that was outside the box. If a potential presidential candidate is thinking about copying Mr. Obama’s innovation strategy, they will not be elected president. Innovation strategy has to be unique to each and every situation.

Candidates must respond to 2016 with an innovation strategy that is in tune with the America of today and tomorrow. As Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page says, “The main thing that has caused companies to fail, in my view, is that they missed the future.” If the political and innovation strategies are in tune with the status quo but not with the future, the candidate will not be elected president.

The status quo has to be challenged, broken down and rebuilt through a strategy that relies on a grass-roots network of volunteers where there is no friction between the innovation, communications and political teams.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas sums up his thoughts on the status quo this way: “What I’m trying to do more than anything else is bring a disruptive app to politics.”

The time is here for a presidential candidate to actively embrace innovation, break up the status quo and wholeheartedly embraces innovation. The 45th president of the United States will be elected because he or she will have actively embraced innovation to build a direct connection with the voters.

The Road to The White House in 2016 starts with Innovation is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte that was originally published in The Washington Times.

Denver Peak Academy: The Innovation Interview

Brian Elms and Melissa Field of the Denver Peak Academy share their thoughts and insights on innovation, technology and lean thinking in the public sector.

Brian Elms is a creative public affairs and process improvement professional with 15 years of experience providing political, policy, legislative and program management expertise to government agencies, elected officials, trade associations and non-profit organizations. Brian started his career in public service after graduating from Regis University and joining the National School and Community Corps (AmeriCorps) as a team leader. After working in Washington DC, Brian moved back to his hometown and served as the Assistant Director of Government Affairs at Denver International Airport.

Brian is a certified Lean Black Belt and is a leader in Denver’s Peak Academy. He helped create the Peak Academy curriculum and trains employees performance management and continuous improvement through the Lean process improvement methodology. Brian is a graduate of Leadership Denver.

Melissa Field has over 6 years experience in public policy. She previously held positions with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the United States Department of State, a Philadelphia-based public policy consulting firm, and a local nonprofit organization. She currently serves as the Peak Academy process improvement analyst for the Denver Animal Shelter and has worked extensively with the Departments of Public Works, Excise and Licenses, and Environmental Health. She has coordinated several large scale conferences and trainings and facilitated multiple process improvement efforts. She holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Pennsylvania and is currently writing her first book.

How do you define innovation and what does it mean to you?

Innovation for us means trying something new or different. The Peak Academy believes in accepting all attempts at change, no matter how small.

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

The Peak Academy uses the Lean methodology. We first teach employees the tools to help them innovate because we think it’s important for employees to feel empowered with knowledge and have a shared language as they go through process innovation together.

Our classes pull together employees from agencies throughout the City and County of Denver. We teach the value of working as a team and building an infrastructure where teams can go through changes together. We also test all our ideas through experiments. It’s important for our employees to understand that, through the testing process, we might find that certain ideas won’t work and that’s fine.

We’d rather have employees try something new and not be successful than never try at all. The Mayor also made a promise to City employees that no one would lose his/her job as a result of a process improvement.

Embracing failure as a step on the way to success, promising support and security, and training facilitators and leaders to lead with humility and build supportive open environments where people can share without fear are all strategies we use to embrace innovation and take more risks.

What is the best piece of advice that you have been given and received?

My advice is simple:

  1. Do not dip your toe in the water, it will get cut off by the culture of the city.
  2. We didn’t do this and I feel we missed a major step…focus on supervisors and managers after the line staff training. The supervisors and managers are former line staff and used to do this job…they can single handily defeat your continuous improvement.
  3. Only go where you are invited. And slice it really thin. Don’t commit to the Department of Public Works as a whole. Break them down into groups of 100. Use a single facilitator/internal consultant for every 100 employees. Focus intently on them for 6 months before moving to another 100 people.

What is your greatest achievement and why?

Seeing 8 non-lean practitioners become amazing facilitators and internal consultants in less than 1 year.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?


Why did the City of Denver decided to actively embrace Lean Thinking and open the Peak Academy?

Lean was simple—easy to use and understand. In addition, it’s open source and we could easily tailor the tools to government processes.

What inspiration has Toyota had on the City of Denver when it comes to implementing lean thinking?

Toyota and Lean are the basis for the curriculum. We liked the simplicity of Toyota’s approach and their focus on continuous improvement, the customer voice, and employee engagement. We also facilitate kaizen events, which we refer to as Rapid Improvement Events.

Has the City of Denver turned to the home-grown company Chipotle to learn how they were able to grow a Denver based business into an international brand all the while maintaining their culture and maintaining a cool factor with their customers?

No, we haven’t talked to anyone at Chipotle, though that’s a great idea!

How has the startup scene in Denver evolved since the Peak Academy launched in 2011?

We work with employees throughout the City and County of Denver so we haven’t partnered with startup companies or businesses in Denver.

Thus far what are the City of Denver’s greatest takeaways from the Peak Academy and have other City Governments approached the City Of Denver to learn best practices of lean thinking?

Accept all changes, no matter how small; train employees in process improvement; allow the employees who do the work to innovate on that work; tie innovation to metrics and a strategic plan; track metrics and follow-up; celebrate employees; build environments of honesty and kindness.

Political Innovation: Developing an Innovative Political Organization

When you think of the term innovation, you probably do not associate it with politics. This is due at least in part to the historical reluctance of politicians and campaign managers to take uncertain risks that could have a negative impact on the outcome of an election or term.

Instead, it is companies in the private sector such as Apple and Google that are disrupting their industries with new, innovative products and services. And, even older, more established companies such as Porsche and Walmart are redefining their industries with updated product lines and innovative business models.

These private sector companies have successfully developed cultures that are always learning and striving for perfection. Apple has Jony Ive, who is always pushing the envelope of what is possible, and Google has Google X, its secret lab focused on solving big problems.

So where is the Jony Ive and Google X of politics?

I believe that if political organizations adopted the mindset of these above-mentioned private sector companies and moved away from the tried and true strategies of non-geotargeted direct mailers and blanketed TV ads, their candidate would win more elections. While America has already seen the power of these more targeted strategies in President Obama’s campaign wins, as explored in the June, 2013 New York Times Magazine article “Data You Can Believe In,” conventional strategies for the most part remain uncontested, and true innovation has yet to hatch.

Innovation in Politics: Rewrite the Playbook and Change the Organizational Model

Being an innovator in politics would mean rewriting the playbook and building a political organization that is always learning and experimenting with new technologies and strategies. This organizational model should be the model which all future political organizations use to develop political campaign strategies.

Political candidates, campaign managers, and political consultants should consider the following when developing an innovative political organization:

1. Recruit problem-solving individuals who have multidisciplinary backgrounds and who have the ability and bandwidth to focus on the bigger picture: changing the way politicians approach politics.

2. Take more calculated risks. While some of these risks will fail, others will succeed. When Porsche preemptively decided to get ahead of the SUV trend by introducing the Cayenne in 2002, they were taking a huge risk. But the Cayenne now accounts for more than half the company’s global sales.

3. Consumers demand customer service from private sector companies, and they expect immediate responses to their inquiries. The same will be true of voters. As more homes come online, politicians will be able to host virtual, two-way interactive town halls in voters’ homes and gather real-time feedback on their policies. While this might not become a reality for the 2016 presidential election, it is a very real possibility for the 2020 presidential election, especially if the much-rumored Apple TV is realized.

4. Politics need innovation labs focused on changing the way politicians win elections. A lab should be run as a fully independent arm of a political organization—away from campaign headquarters, to avoid the echo-chamber effect. Political operatives would be able to focus on the long-term picture of winning multiple elections, not just one. In the retail industry, companies such as Nordstrom, Walmart, Target, and Kohl’s have each established innovation labs to figure out the future of retailing. As a result, for example, Walmart has had great success in developing mobile apps that allow their customers to shop when, where, and how they want to.

5. Politicians need to stay in front of their message. On-demand political news channels would allow the politician unprecedented access to voter’s living rooms. Platforms such as xBox Live, which currently has 48 million members, and Google’s Chromecast would be great places to start.

The traditional ways of connecting and interacting with voters will dramatically change over the next 10 years. Will political organizations willingly adapt to trends in the private sector or will they continue not to innovate because that is the status quo?

Political Innovation: Developing an Innovative Political Organization is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte that was originally published on The MIT Sloan Executive Education [email protected]™ Blog.

Innovations in Politics: On Demand Media

The absence of the introduction of innovation in our political election system should raise serious questions about why we are not adopting and embracing new technology that could be both be cost efficient and justified in achieving a common goal.

It has never been more critical and apparent that leading figures in the political arena should be more accessible and mindful of new methods and strategies that could enhance the overall voter experience.

Innovation in politics is near non-existent and it shouldn’t be since voters are more connected than ever. Why is innovation non-existent in politics? The answer is rather simple, many political operatives do not want to up-end their lucrative businesses as new technologies would indubitably eat into their profit margins. This is clearly demonstrated as the keyword “Political Innovation” is only searched on average 20 times a month on Google in the United States.

This is the same problem that destroyed the record business. Digital music sales cannibalized CD sales when industry executives were unwilling to embrace new technologies. The big difference between the music industry and politics is that there will always be a need for politicians to represent their constituents.

Political operatives know this very well. While it is up for debate, the one defining fact is that most political operatives are not innovators. For the most part they are not willing to roll up their sleeves and try something that might disrupt their current business model.

How many individuals do you know who watch TV without skipping ads on a regular basis? Out of those handful of individuals who do watch TV and do not skip ads, how many are not technologically savvy and do not own a DVR? Do those same individuals still receive the majority of their bills and correspondences through the mail?

Now ask yourself, is this individual an early adopter of technology? More than likely they are not. Early adopters who are registered to vote do not spend time watching countless hours watching live broadcast TV and patiently waiting for correspondences in the mail. These early adopters are living in a real-time society with access to pretty much anything they want on demand.

Why do political operatives continue advise continue to their clients to spend the majority of their campaign funds on TV and print mailer ads? Because it is what they know and if they lose the race, they can justify this to the candidate because this strategy has won political races in the past.

While this formula has worked before, it will not continue to work in the future. The future of reaching voters is more hyper-targeted than ever. Politicians need to learn how to become real-time publishers of content.

Instead of spending millions of dollars on a TV ad buy, why not call Microsoft to explore innovative ways to target and reach potential new voters via the xBox Live platform which has 48 million members and growing? Or perhaps even call Samsung to learn about developing an app for their Smart TV platform?

If exploring strategic relationships seems like an overwhelming task, politicians could follow in Chris Christie’s footsteps by creating a series of YouTube videos to promote their message. But why stop there when a politician could “Plus It” as Walt Disney famously said? To Plus It, political campaigns could purchase a GoPro Hero 3+ for $399.99 that would allow them to shoot 4k videos and upload 1080p high-resolution video YouTube.

Voters could then watch those crystal clear videos on their TVs via Google’s Chromecast from any device that either has Chrome installed or the YouTube App. The early adopter demographic of voters consumes content on demand, not at a pre-subscribed viewing time.

While a politician might not see a great ROI when they first start experimenting with new technologies and platforms, they will be building a long-term relationship with the voter. These new technologies will allow the politician unprecedented access to both new and current voters.

With the upcoming 2016 Presidential Election will Republican candidates reach out to the Romney team to inquire about what technologies worked and what lessons they learned from implementing new technologies?

Will those same team members share their honest unfiltered thoughts regarding which technologies and strategies worked and failed and why? Or will the Democrats continue to out innovate the Republicans by embracing new technologies and continuing to build a highly-scalable mobile ground game powered in part by SalesForce?

As technology evolves and voter habits change, innovation will allow politicians to stay in front of the message and connect directly with the voters. With the upcoming 2016 Presidential Election will we learn if old habits die hard and if new innovative technologies such as streaming video on xBox Live or developing an app for a Smart TV will become a reality?

xBox Live, Chromecast and Smart TV apps will enable politicians to get ahead of the message and connect directly with new voters in an interactive way like never before.

Innovations in Politics: On Demand Media is an article written by Brulte & Company Co-Founder Grayson Brulte.