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N=1; R=G: A Strategic Platform for 2010
by Nick B. Fontanilla, Ph.D. (Word Document)

 The road to 2010 is going to be rough and bumpy, not just for the presidential election but for the economy as a whole. Somehow, the presidential election in 2010 and the economy that will unfold until 2010 are tightly connected and could possibly influence the outcome of each other. A scenario in 2010 that is perceived to be fair and credible will set a positive tone for the present and next administrations while a resilient economy moving forward to 2010 will pave the way to an election that is more open to positive change.

A survey conducted by The Asia-Pacific Centre for Research (Acre), Inc. in November 2008 among a nationwide sample of 1,500 voter-households reveals that more than 60% believe that past national elections had not been peaceful and clean. About the same percentage are of the opinion that the coming presidential elections will not be peaceful and clean. This is a scary overcast at a time when the might of the global crisis slowly creeps into our fragile economy,

Our best bet is to collectively work for a credible election and an economy that is driven by a passion for good governance. The challenge to economic managers and our politicians is to create an environment that will precisely bring about this synergy. This extraordinary challenge requires a new strategic platform. It is a bad time to introduce radical change. But it is riskier not to. Oprah Winfrey said, ‘I believe that one of life’s greatest risks is never daring to risk.’

N=1; R=G is a daring strategic platform that business, political parties and traditional politicians may explore to make effective use of available resources and co-create a personalized experience that is purpose driven. This strategic platform was conceptualized by C. K. Prahalad and M.S. Krishnan, both professors at the Ross School of Business in University of Michigan. I first heard of N=1; R=G from Prof. Krishnan when he was invited to keynote the SPSS conference in Chicago two weeks ago. The platform has a business context but had been effectively used in government and politics.

N=1 is a phenomenon where value is co-created by all stakeholders. The focus is on the centrality of the individual. R=G emphasizes that access to resources should be multi-vendor and global. The focus is on access to resources, not ownership of resources which is the traditional method. Using N=1; R=G as the platform, manufacturers access resources that are available from those most capable to deliver them and, in real time, co-create (with one consumer at a time) a personalized experienced.

Krishnan cites Apple as a company approaching the N=1; R=G business model. By accessing appropriate technology wherever it is available at a managed cost, Apple co-creates with every user a selection of favorite songs, one song at a time. The number of products, services and vendors that are involved in this co-creation is amazing. Most of them are not even owned by Apple.

The Obama campaign team made use of this business model to reach out to and co-create a personalized experience with young voters, undecided voters, and committed voters who were open to persuasion. Although the team’s preparation and strategy development antedated the public release of this model, the overall approach is definitely N=1; R=G.

The campaign team accessed a combination of resources including online social networking, analytics software and microtargeting to reach out to and co-create with millions of Americans a shared experience anchored on the desire for meaningful change. Yehey, Inc. reported that the online social networking brought together 35 million ‘social networkers’. It became the platform for social and political exchange and fund raising. In his keynote address at the SPSS Dimensions in November 2008 in Las Vegas, Ken Strasma of Micro Strategy said that by using SPSS Clementine, online social networking, and a host of other internet tools, they were able to profile a database of 95 million Americans and individually dialogue with a short list of those undecided voters and voters that were open to persuasion.

Will the N=1; R=G business model work in the Philippines? Online social networking is available to anyone with access to the internet. So is the internet. Entry cost is minimal or affordable. Influential management thinkers predict that social networking will redefine the way we will conduct business, communicate with customers, relate with our employees, and dialogue with constituents. They consider social networking as a vital strategic capital for the future. N=1 is a social networking movement.

This megatrend is very popular in the Philippines. The Filipino is typically a ‘social networker.’ A total of 500,000 text messages a day is a testament to that. Despite having a lower per capita ownership of computers, Filipinos are among the top ‘networkers’ in Friendster, a privately owned internet social networking website and the first online social network. I am a member of three online social networks – WAYN for travelers, LinkedIn for business associates, and Friendster for friends. There are many other social networks, some of them even bigger.

Micro-targeting is a methodology that predicts (with a definable level of precision) how voters a candidate is not able to reach would have responded if that candidate had been able to profile them. The idea behind micro-targeting is to look at what we know about voters we were able to tag using research and a public data base, and to use that information to build a statistical model to tag other voters in that data base. Obama used this methodology with precision to gain advantage over Hillary Clinton and later McCain using less resource. Micro-targeting is something that we do in the Philippines but in a business context. Credit scoring, customer retention, campaign management, cross/up selling are examples of micro-targeting.

Reflecting forward and looking back at what we can do at the local level, N=1; R=G is a strategic model that is ideal for 2010. The road forward can be less resource hungry, less bumpy. It provides a network for defining and building intelligent political platforms that is socially viable. Hopefully, it will help break the cycle of corruption that usually starts with an expensive political campaign. To effectively mount one, however, political parties will have to start creating its N=1; R=G platform.

(Aniceto Fontanilla is CEO of The Asia-Pacific Centre for Research (ACRE), Inc., fellow of the Institute for Solidarity in Asia, and professorial lecturer at the DLSU Ramon V. Del Rosario Graduate School of Business. For comments and questions, email to abfontanilla@yahoo.com or nick.fontanilla@gmail.com)  

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