The story of two Clintons: Bill & Hillary

Bill Clinton created the strategy. The Third Way. Be a centrist. Combine left leaning social justice policies with right leaning economic policies. Stand for environmental protection and health reform along with free trade and getting rid of the deficit. Because of this strategy, Bill appealed to a broad spectrum of voters.

Along with this, Bill made it a point to create a strong coalition and get endorsements from heavy hitters. He was very good with fundraising and networking.

And thats why, he won and became the president of USA in 1992 as well as 1996.

In 2008, when Hillary decided to run for elections, she used Bill Clinton’s successful playbook. But she went way beyond in every way that mattered.

Hillary’s policies were centrist too. But they were much more detailed and comprehensive than Bill’s policies ever were. 

Hillary raised way more funds than Bill ever could. Because of which, she could setup extensive on-the-ground operations in all 50 states.

Almost everything that Bill had done, Hillary had improved upon. She was the queen of optimizing and improving.

But even with better policies, more resources, and better execution – she lost. Not only once, but twice. Why? 

Because optimization hinders evolution

While Hillary was working on optimizing a playbook that had worked in the past, Obama came up with a new playbook. Of using Moneyball methods to focus on Iowa instead of other caucuses to network. Of fundraising using social media.

He focused on a message of hope, not paying much attention to individual policies.

In 2016, when Hillary ran once more, she once again optimized the strategies that had worked for Obama. She had more data and more intelligence than anyone else. Moneyball strategy was on steroids. And she generated more funds from social media. In fact, she raised over 1.4 billion dollars! She dwarfed Donald Trump in any way you could measure.

But yet she lost against Trump. Because once again, while she was optimizing the existing playbook, Trump had evolved the methods and was using a new playbook. Of enraging the audience. Of playing the media for maximum attention. Of using controversies. Of simply focusing on peoples inherent fears.

Hillary Clinton did everything right if judged from the scorecards of the past. She just didn’t innovate and evolve fast enough.

Evolution is hard

Even when Steve Jobs released the iphone, Blackberry stuck to optimizing their keyboard based phones. They could not evolve. And as a result, they perished.

Evolution is hard because you have to accept loss on your existing effort to move on to the new thing. That’s why disruption rarely happens by an incumbent. Someone who is not shackled to old investments can truly move faster on new things.

But evolution is necessary. If you don’t evolve, you will perish. If you yourself don’t make your current products and processes obsolete, someone else will.

So how can you evolve?

  1. Test new things. Have two R&D departments. One that improves and optimizes your current product line. But one that works on new things that no one else is working on.
  2. Pay attention to the edges of society. What are smart people doing today that is not easy? What are people in other totally unrelated fields doing? Innovative ideas come from edges.

But both these action steps require a change in mindset. You have to be a person that embraces change. That looks out for new challenges.

Action Summary:

  • You can’t simply improve on the past. You have to evolve and innovate.