How India’s Aam Aadmi Party Leveraged Networks & Crowds for Electoral Success Reply

aam admi partyI stumbled upon a fascinating post from a professor of strategy, Phanish Puranam, describing how India’s Aam Aadmi Party achieved a stunning electoral success in Delhi by turning to networks and the power of crowds.  I must admit I completely missed this story as it developed during one of my busiest times of the year.  But you can read all about it in Beating the Incumbents with a Fraction of Their Budget.

This story illustrates several important ideas.

Key points:

  • Aam Aadmi appears to have had 1/6th the budget but still won the election
  • Their activities are purpose-driven (i.e., anti-corruption) as discussed by Dan Pink
  • Social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, served as tools for organizing volunteers
  • The party gave people many ways to get involved–from homemade banners, to rickshaws as mobile billboards, and volunteer telephone call campaigns.

The localization of these efforts is fascinating–the rickshaws and such–especially because of one simple point that seems to have been overlooked in all the media coverage (at least what I read).  This success story is a textbook replica of the means that the Obama campaign used to win the democratic nomination in 2008.  I have been teaching the Obama-Clinton YouTube case for years as an example of how networks function and crowds can be mobilized.

I have also spoken with colleagues from India and I am equally intrigued that the Aam Aadmi Party is now being criticized for not delivering upon its promises quickly enough. In one news article, they are described as being out of their depth.   While the timeframe differs (i.e., much more rapid in India), the same phenomenon was seen in the US after Obama was elected.  The high tide of commitment and emotion that drove voters to the polls now appears to be a source of criticism.

Is there a risk to to the crowdsourced approach?  Do the techniques that activate a network also lead to create discontent when overwhelming success is not immediately replicated (in a completely different content, I might add)?  What must crowdsourcing protagonists know about their techniques and the risks involved?

In plain English, the skill set that got us elected is not the same skill set that allows us to govern successfully.

We now have a fantastic example from India and this one definitely will be discussed in Friday’s class.