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David Plouffe, the architect of President Barack Obama’s two presidential campaigns, shares the crucial elements to achieving effective results in the face of momentous shifts in politics and business.
A pioneering force of innovation in politics, technology, and grassroots leadership, David Plouffe has distinguished himself as a proven field general and idea generator.
As Senior Advisor to President Obama, he stood at the center of the debate on key issues now facing our country – from tax and entitlement reform to immigration reform and foreign policy challenges. Combined with his pathbreaking work at Uber, and policy and advocacy efforts at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, he is a transcending force at the intersection of politics, policy, and business.
Plouffe began his career working on a Senate primary campaign for a Delaware democrat. In the years since, he’s become a veteran of congressional, gubernatorial, and presidential campaigns.
Over his extensive career, Plouffe developed proven strategies to rally people around common causes. So, when Senator Barack Obama asked him to run his 2008 presidential campaign, he recognized his chance to create the kind of campaign he idealized. The resulting efforts forever changed the face of politics.
Of that campaign, Plouffe says it was like "creating a start-up organization at warp speed." He honed in on grassroots movements – refocusing on involving people at the local level and reenergizing the core of the country. He drove people to organize by emphasizing the fundamentals of America, and what it means to be a democracy by the people, for the people.
His unprecedented approach to reach voters by leveraging technology and big data resulted in the election of America’s first African-American president. By harnessing the power of the Internet to spark a grassroots movement, he changed the landscape of campaigns to come.
When reflecting on his time with Obama, Plouffe says, “In signing up to work for this political long shot from Chicago, we had gained a unique perch from which to watch American history unfold.”
Plouffe’s experience running a well-oiled campaign machine makes him an undeniable authority on organizational structure. By setting up a clear chain of command, and a framework that empowers individuals, it assured the campaign ran seamlessly and smoothly. His playbook for success is revealed in his book “The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama’s Historic Victory,” a New York Times bestseller.
Following his work with the 44th president, Plouffe was called into the business world to share his unique approach and expertise. In 2014, Uber brought him in to manage all global policy and political activities, communications, and branding. The company’s leaders looked to him as a strategic partner on all matters, as the ride-sharing giant grew its presence around the world. Under his leadership, the first ridesharing regulations in the world were established, leading to over 200 different cities enacting ride-sharing friendly regulations during his tenure. Plouffe also led the effort to reframe how policymakers and the public understood Uber’s drivers and the debate around them. He oversaw a first-of-its-kind academic study that created headlines around the world, capturing that the vast majority of Uber’s drivers were driving under 10 hours a week, using the platform to top up income.
Later, in 2017, Plouffe was asked to join the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative's mission to advance human potential and promote equal opportunity – utilizing great storytelling, smart policy engagement, and mobilization and innovation as key tools. He continues his work there today as head of policy and advocacy, building collaboration between technologists and practitioners from communities seeking to break through systemic barriers and solve real-world challenges – in areas like criminal justice, immigration, and housing.
No matter the role, Plouffe is known for thinking beyond the conventional. With his tenacious, methodical, and proven methods, he knows the essential ingredients to crafting a team built for success.
"As a leader, the thing I'm most interested in is making decision-making uneventful," he says.
By this, Plouffe means that every decision should be an easy yes or no. And, according to him, it starts with organizations educating their people on what the clear path to success looks like. When this approach is activated, actions and decisions either support a business’s strategy and message, or they don't – making the clear choice feel obvious. Even if people ultimately disagree with the decision, Plouffe says, they understand that the answer isn’t based on subjectivity.
Plouffe’s array of accomplishments demonstrate his profound ability to bridge the gap between dreaming and achieving. He shows others how doing what you believe in, taking a chance, betting on the right people, and having high ideals can produce a winning combination.
With his unassuming style, Plouffe communicates motivated and innovative solutions pertinent to any organization seeking to be at the forefront of change in their industry. Drawing people in with rapid-fire, detail-oriented, and visceral stories from the ground, he shares his playbook for success when facing overwhelming and seemingly insurmountable odds.
As a pioneering force in innovative leadership, David Plouffe knows how to transform a movement into a well-oiled machine. His secret? Make decision-making uneventful by leaning on a clear playbook for success.
Being on the front lines of innovation in politics, business, and now philanthropy, Plouffe knows how to use breakthrough technologies to make smarter decisions about the future. Some refer to these game-changing ideas as "disruptive innovation." He calls it: "simple progress."
According to Plouffe, organizing President Obama’s first presidential campaign was like “creating a start-up organization at warp speed.” With a winning strategy, Plouffe reengaged people in the election process and revitalized excitement in the core of America.
Plouffe is known for thinking beyond the conventional. He credits the success of Obama’s campaign to their strategy of being bold and going against the grain, even when it meant standing alone. "Whenever we embraced risk, we were rewarded – a lesson that eventually became a touchstone when making hard decisions," he says.
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How to Motivate People to Take Action
Whether it’s the grassroots-fueled Obama political campaigns, leading the efforts to organize Uber drivers and riders in regulatory fights, or working with organizations to change our criminal justice system, David Plouffe has unique insights and victories to share about when, how, and why to ask voters, customers, or citizens to raise their voice to help deliver their desired outcome.
In today’s world, the most effective efforts marry smart marketing and creative strategy with grassroots activity, on and off line to create brand loyalty. Based on both personal history and historical study, Plouffe provides a tutorial on what is possible – and what isn't – when it comes to activation.
The Data Question
Data increasingly plays a key role in politics, business, and organizations across the world. However, many believe it can be a substitute for core fundamentals. Data and analytics cannot transform a bad idea into a good one, the wrong time into the right time, or close a massive gap – whether that be in votes or market share.
In the last decade, David Plouffe has directly reported to the President of the United States; the founder and CEO of the most disruptive and highly-valued startup in history; and a young couple trying to launch the most ambitious philanthropy on the planet.
While those missions are all quite distinct, the leadership lessons are universal. In this talk, Plouffe shares his perspective on:
- What makes a strong leader
- The differences between war and peace time leaders
- A leader’s effect on organizational culture
- How C-suite executives can best support their leader
No two leaders are alike but Plouffe’s experience being in a high-pressure bunker with some of the most famous leaders of our time will yield insights for any organization.
How to Communicate and Win in a Rapidly Changing Digital Age
Every year – or even every month – brings new changes in technology and consumer and voter behavior. Despite the plethora of avenues to reach people, delivering a consistent message to your target audience is harder than ever.
David Plouffe reveals how the Obama campaigns, and the White House, combatted this by leveraging each medium to maximum effect. Additionally, Plouffe forecasts how the media landscape is likely to further change in the months and years ahead and what organizations can do to stay ahead of the curve.
Innovation and Disruption Will Be the Rule
History does repeat itself. Most major breakthroughs of the last century have been celebrated first by the consumers that benefit, and often scorned by the companies and regulators that wanted to protect the status quo.
Academics refer to game-changing ideas as "disruptive innovation." David Plouffe calls it "simple progress." Being on the front lines of new technological innovations in politics, business, and philanthropy, Plouffe’s insights and rich stories will be of an interest to any organization – academic, private, and non-profit – that is trying to use technology to make smarter decisions about the future and not be the victim of massive disruption.
His unprecedented approach to reach voters by leveraging technology and big data resulted in the election of America’s first African-American president. At Uber, Plouffe spearheaded reforms and strategies that enabled companies representing all industries to innovate and grasp opportunities that would otherwise be restricted by outdated rules and monopoly preservation.
At the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Plouffe builds collaboration between technologists and practitioners on the front lines in communities leading the efforts to solve real-world challenges.
During his presentation, Plouffe explores the technological disruption happening all around us, the key ingredients for success and what other industries and areas are ripe for massive change.
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White House Chief of Staff (2013-2017); Deputy National Security Advisor (2010-2013)