Zeit·geist = spirit, essence of a particular time

A collection of food-for-thought posts and articles on technology, business, leadership and management. 

Ranking of best executives 2011, Spain: el Economista

Last Tuesday, the financial newspaper el Economista published the ranking of best executives in Spain. A yearly public poll comprising main sectors of the industry. By mistake, or by chance (can't find myself any other reasonable cause), I was included in the pool of telecom's candidates.

Thanks to people voting, and more importantly, to those who didn't vote me. Both groups made the poll come to an unforeseen result, taking my candidature to the second position right between the winner, Johan Andsjo, CEO of Yoigo, and Mr. Cesar Alierta, president of Telefonica

An honor to be included in this ranking among top tier individuals like Francisco Roman (President, Vodafone Spain) or Jose Maria Castellano (CEO at ONO, the fixed carrier).

Apologies to all candidates and other excellent professionals (not included in the survey), for irreverent intrusion. (I really felt like stepping in somebody else's house).

As usual, there is a root cause to this. Masha Lloyd's entry in Facebook, last Sunday, sparked the whole thing. Masha is Yoigo's comms director, ex-colleague and British friend (the adjective is important here).

Her FB entry brought to my attention this survey, and, my name was in the candidate list, ... and, there was race, ... and, I had a PC in front of me with an empty twitter status...

Online polling is a matter of interest to me. I do believe there is a great opportunity turning 'analog' voting into an online, digital process with smartphones (I'll talk about this in the future).

Surprisingly, web polls are still rudimentary and they still miss many of the social aspects around the process, not to mention poor implementation for mobile access. For instance:

- The race to the Top:

Since the very first moment when the web poll starts, and once a critical mass of votes is reached, there is a polarization process towards the two leading candidates. Typically, the minimum critical mass is around 20% of all voters. At the end, there is a one to one fight between these two. Voters are influenced and tend to vote one or the other, diluting any possibilities for the remaining candidates (the same effect we see in politics, there is a symmetric pattern).

Votes turn to be conditioned rather than impulsive, despite the fact you couldn't see the web poll status at first sight, hidden behind the click to a button.

- Campaign elections:

On Sunday, as I was on a budget, I ran my own campaign on a PC, with a pack of donuts, a twitter account, my facebook page and linkedin.

First lesson, candidate influence is key. It is not the same to see a candidate list in el Economista web page than receiving a personal request to participate directly from one of the candidates. The P2P (Person to Person) approach increases favorability significantly (this explains the huge investments from political parties around candidate roadshows, make sense now to me).

My initial strategy on Sunday, phase 1, was pretty straight forward, spread the word and reach as many people as possible to increase participation in the poll (without conditioning the voters) as I was confident my candidature had higher awareness and better attributes than many other competitors (we made record sales of BlackBerry this year in Spain, among other things). It was all about leveraging on brand awareness.

It worked nicely. A critical mass of votes came in the next 48 hours, climbing from 10th to the 4th position, overtaking Paco Roman (paradoxically), and, from there reaching the 3rd place, tailgating Mr. Cesar Alierta in 2nd position at that moment.

Moving into phase 2, from Wednesday onwards, the polarization effect started after Mr. Alierta was relegated to the 3rd place (I really hope he doesn't take it into consideration) and all I needed to do was to close the gap with the winner who, the previous day, multiplied his votes (and I am saying 'multiplied' instead of 'added' for reasons Masha will understand for sure).

On Wednesday I withdrew my personal campaign and let the long tail effect do the rest. We ended up in s-e-c-o-n-d place finally, contrary to all expectations.

As a conclusion, short term marketing strategies do really work and they definitively play a role towards the elections result.

- Online influence:

This is a controversial statement: I do think democratic elections need to evolve and differentiate votes. They should factor in contextual parameters both for candidates and voters, and include metrics like voter influence (klout) or professional competencies (linkedin), applicable, for instance, in the case referred here in this post.

From an user experience point of view, this information should be presented visually, and dynamically in real time, comprising candidate comparisons and voters comparison as well (yes, I envision a Cascades' based interface running on PlayBook doing all of this).

In this way, 'technical' or vertical polls, as in this case, selecting best executives of a given sector, will become more genuine, much more valuable, with voters taking informed decisions, avoiding alterations of the election's course from technofreaks running ego-driven, unconventional digital marketing tactics (although truth to be told, perfectly valid).

Merry Xmas


(Written on a plane from London to Madrid with a BlackBerry 9900)