Tag Archives: web2.0

Try Looking Outside to Solve the Problems Inside

Quick – who recently said this in reference to his organization’s social media efforts?

“…if our consumers are younger, and they love video games, and they have shorter attention spans, and they love interactivity, and they love social media, and everyone blogs, and everyone’s on Facebook, why wouldn’t we put ourselves right in the middle of that?”

What social media or Government 2.0 champion could have said this? Could it have been Federal CIO Vivek Kundra? Maybe Director, New Media and Citizen Engagement at GSA, Bev Godwin? Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Price Floyd?

Nope. Try Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals. In this week’s Washington Post, Leonsis discusses why the team is aggressively using social media to engage with their fans and the potential impact that social media can have on his team and on the sport. Sound familiar? Sound anything like what us in the Gov 2.0 and social media communities have been telling our bosses and clients for years now?

Leonsis goes on to say that, “what’s unique and different about us is that most organizations are managed [with the thinking], ‘We’re bricks and mortar, we’re buildings, and we have this Web operation beside us,'” Leonsis said. “We’re kind of different. We look at the Web as being our basic power plant, kind of like electricity, so the Web and communicating in this fashion is second nature to us now. It’s not like we go brochure, television, mail. It’s Web, and then everything else. It’s social media first, and everything else.”

Hmmmm…sounds like his perspective, experience, and business acumen would be a valuable addition to the Gov 2.0 conversation, don’t you think?

I recently read a fascinating article in the latest edition of Fast Company – “A Problem Solver’s Guide to Copycatting.” This article argues that instead of solving our toughest problems through brainstorming or consulting with experts, we should start looking for analogues outside our industry because someone (or some thing) has probably already solved our problem. For example (from the Fast Company article),

“In 1989, the pilots of the Exxon Valdez ran it into Bligh Reef, spilling enough oil to cover 11,000 square miles of ocean. To finish this cleanup job, you’d have to clear an area the size of Walt Disney World Resort every week for about five years. One major obstacle was that the oil and water tended to freeze together, making the oil harder to skim off. This problem defied engineers for years until a man named John Davis, who had no experience in the oil industry, solved it. In 2007, he proposed using a construction tool that vibrates cement to keep it in liquid form as it pours. Presto!”

This methodology, this thinking, that someone who has absolutely no experience with or knowledge of your organization might be able to solve a problem that your top domain experts haven’t been able to crack is a totally foreign concept to most organizations, especially those within the government. What if instead of talking with the Gov 2.0 “experts,” we started getting more people from outside of Government involved in Gov 2.0? Think about the value that Craig Newmark has brought to the Gov 2.0 discussion. Or Tim O’Reilly.

The social media community seems to have realized the value these outsider perspectives can bring – just last year I attended conferences featuring Jermaine Dupri, Brooke Burke, and Jalen Rose. This year, Gov 2.0 events like Gov 2.0 LA reached out to Hollywood to get that perspective and author/entrepreneur/professional keynoter Gary Vaynerchuk will be speaking at this year’s Gov 2.0 Expo. Getting these influencers involved as speakers is a great start, but we need to achieve more consistent engagement beyond just singular events.

What if the next Director of New Media and Web Communications for DHS was someone like Mike DiLorenzo, Director of Corporate Communications for the NHL? What if we talked with some behavior modification psychologists about the best way to change people’s behavior from one of “need to know” to “need to share?” What if we studied Native American tribes to learn more about how they build and maintain a unique culture even in the face of extreme changes?

While government may be unique, the problems we’re facing aren’t. The challenge shouldn’t be in solving them, but rather, in finding out who or what has solved them already.

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Gov 2.0 – We Need to Get Past the Honeymoon Stage of Our Relationship

I was in Las Vegas this week to participate in BlogWorld 2009 with some of the industry’s biggest big-wigs in social media. I really like going to conferences like this and next week’s Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco because they help me escape the Gov 2.0 echo chamber that I sometimes get trapped in back in DC.  The people I meet, the presentations I hear, and the conversations that I have while at these conferences help me get a more realistic view of what’s going on with the Gov 2.0 movement.  This week’s conference was no different.  Between this week and Brian Drake’s excellent blog post, I realized that we (the “Goverati”) are still very much in the honeymoon stage of Gov 2.0.

Allow me to explain. I liken it to when you first start dating a woman and everything is going well – you talk for hours, you spend every waking moment with each other, and you talk to your friends about how great everything is going.  This goes on for a few weeks or months – it’s still new, it’s still fun, and perhaps most importantly, it’s not anything like that last awful relationship you had.  However, this is also the time when you’re ignoring the fact that she made you meatloaf the other night for dinner and you hate meatloaf but all you could say was, “I loved it honey.”  This is also the time when your buddies might start telling you that this girl is crazy-annoying, but you laugh it off and tell them that she’s the best thing that’s happened to you.  This is the time when you have a distorted view on reality because everything is so new and fun and different.  This is the stage that we find ourselves with Gov 2.0.

Gov 2.0 is still so new that we talk about it ad nauseam with anyone who will listen, it’s the greatest thing to happen to the government ever, and it’s most definitely not at all like that last command and control relationship where we didn’t have a voice and were bullied around all the time.  Not anymore, we say!  We have Government 2.0 now and everything is perfect!!  However, we’re making the same mistakes that everyone in the honeymoon stage makes – we’re writing off mistakes (and outright failures) as minor quirks, we’re ignoring logic in favor in the new girl/technology, and possibly most damaging, we’re ignoring the people who are giving us constructive criticism because they just don’t know her (Gov 2.0) like I do.

Coming out here and participating in BlogWorld showed me the next stage of our Gov 2.0 relationship.  It showed me people asking the tough questions, demanding more out of the community, and tackling some very polarizing legal issues.  People were almost unanimously friendly, but there were definitely some disagreements and debates to be had, not to mention some good-natured ribbing.  It showed me a relationship where the participants have finally started to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and can be honest about them.  It showed me what Gov 2.0 can and will be if we just start admitting it to ourselves.  Yeah, Gov 2.0 is absolutely great and it’s most definitely changing government for the better.  That doesn’t mean that everything is perfect though.  There are things we can do better.  There are things we can do more of.  And there are things that we need to address before we can take that next step in our relationship.

  1. Realize that not all is perfect in the land of Gov 2.0 While we’ve had a lot of success, let’s not sweep our weaknesses under the rug.  Let’s identify what’s going wrong and talk about it.  We have showcases to talk about all of the successes – why don’t we have an event to talk about the challenges we’re facing and how to overcome them?  Oh wait – we will…
  2. Identify the skeptics and open up a dialogue with them – let’s stop talking about how great we all are amongst ourselves.  I want a conference where that CIO who continues to block access to social media talks about why they’re blocking it.  I want to hear from that Admiral explaining why he’s banned his sailors from using social media.  I want to go to an event where I can talk with the guy who decided to shut down the UGov email system and learn more about the pressures he’s facing.  I want an event, well, an event like this
  3. Hear the war stories of the people who have gone before us – Listen, I KNOW that there have been people who have been fired, reprimanded, demoted, moved to another project, and just flat-out yelled at for some of their Gov 2.0 efforts.  What happened and why?  What are the battles that people are facing?  What are the battles that have been won and lost?  I know that I’ve dealt with people yelling at me, laughing at me, and/or dismissing me for my Gov 2.0 efforts over the last three years – I’m sure there are others out there who would be able to learn from these experiences, just as I have.  Let’s talk about them

Don’t get me wrong – I love Gov 2.0 and I think we’re going to have a long and successful relationship.  I just think we’re to the point where I can tell her that I hate meatloaf without thinking she’s going to get angry with me.  If you agree, and want to help, leave a comment here, tweet this out, and tell your friends – we need the help of the community to identify those people who will tell us the hard truths that our friends won’t because they don’t want to hurt our feelings.

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