Government 2.0: Breaking Down the Walls

On the weekend, I had the good fortune of watching Roger Water’s The Wall at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver. The show was absolutely amazing with the largest projection surface (500 feet wide) ever toured in live entertainment. The images of oppression, war, and the building (and destruction) of the wall accompanied by Pink Floyd’s hauntingly powerful music and lyrics was a feast for the eyes and ears.

After the show, I began to think about the power of Web 2.0, Government 2.0 and Open Government in breaking down the walls that society has built over the millennia. We struggle in our organizations and other societal institutions (such as education and health care) with the rigid structures and hierarchies that constrain creativity, responsiveness, communication, autonomy, purpose, individuality and community. These institutions have evolved to mold us human beings into human automatons and cogs in a machine so that we fit in the industrialized processes, hierarchies and confines of order.They are products of the human mind. Scientific management was an approach to management that analyzed and synthesized workflows to improve economic efficiency. In our attempts to become more efficient and effective, we risk losing touch with our humanity and what Daniel Pink  characterizes as the key ingredients of human motivation: autonomy, mastery and purpose.

The social, inter-active web provides a platform to break down the barriers of traditional organizational silos and open up new possibilities for human organization, interaction and commerce. In government, it enables us to communicate and collaborate across traditional boundaries. It breaks down the walls of silos, hierarchy and compartmentalization. The diagram below is an oversimplification. Of course, there are walls within the ministries themselves, between divisions, between branches and between organizational hierarchical layers within the organizations. These walls are not only found in government; they are also prevalent in private organizations.

Government 2.0 can break down these walls. But they will not break without a fight. We all have a vested interest in protecting our traditional silos. We hoard information, because information is power. We fight tooth and nail to keep our data, protect our organizational boundaries and maintain the status quo. We must learn to be more open, sharing, and accepting of new ideas, of ourselves and of each other. It is a struggle, but the benefits will be enormous. “All and all its just another brick in the wall.”

Roger Waters says the following on his website: “I believe we have at least a chance to aspire to something better than the dog eat dog ritual slaughter that is our current response to our institutionalized fear of each other.” What do you think?

Unshakable Faith in the Human Spirit

After my speaking engagement at the Making Connections: Social Media Conference & Internal Communications in the BC Government this week, I had someone in the audience challenge my assumption about why Gov 2.0 works. My assumption is that most people (I estimate 95%) want to contribute, be part of something larger than themselves, and to make the world a better place

He asked whether I had any empirical evidence for my assumption, because his understanding from what he read was it was more like 15% who want to make the world a better place, 80% who are apathetic and don’t care, and 5% who are out to scam people.

The question was a good one, because it allowed me to make a distinction. My questioner was right: There are a lot of apathetic people. However, my point is that if apathetic people are given the trust, the guidance and the wherewithal (in this case social media), the vast majority will do the right thing. Call it optimism or rose-coloured glasses; I call it my unshakable faith in the human spirit.

Nurse log, Amanda Park, United States
This travel blog photo’s source is TravelPod page: The Quinault Rain Forest is better than the Hoh

Aside from my life experience, my observation is somewhat empirical. I’ve seen the success of crowdsourced initiatives such as Wikipedia and Linux. Wikipedia is a straightforward example. Anyone in the world can update Wikipedia, and it works. Wikipedia contains the three elements of trust, guidance, and the technology that allows people to contribute to a service for all.

Recently in San Francisco, a group of 100 hackers came together for 24 hours to create apps for social good. In a concentrated effort, the developers created an apps to allow subscribers to get an SMS message when a neighbour needs a hand, report missing persons using location data, and exchange fresh produce (for local gardeners), to describe a few.

I’ve also seen social media for social good work on our government corporate microblogging and intranet sites. Public servants routinely contribute to constructive, unmoderated conversations that immediately allow for improved collaboration and communication across silos and ultimately improve service outcomes for citizens.

That is not to say that we have 95% of the world’s population wanting to make a difference. We still have a large majority of people not contributing to the social web to create change and those who are apathetic and don’t care. We all get apathetic at times. But this is the challenge and opportunity. It is a battle for the hearts and mind of the apathetic that will determine the outcome of the human race and our planet.

In what percentage are you? Are you contributing in your area of interest, part of something larger than yourself, somehow making a difference? As Marshall McLuhan said, “There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.”

We need your help and we need your leadership.

All the pieces are in place. It’s your move.

The Why of Social Media (part 1)

Yesterday in at the Advanced Learning Institutes Social Media in Government Conference in Vancouver, I talked about the why of social media. I’ve based my thoughts on Simon Sinek’s golden circle (see TED Talk) of 3 concentric rings of why, how and what. Simon talks about the importance of why in marketing products. (The why motivates people to buy). Most companies start with the what and then move to the how. For example, a car manufacturer’s what: We sell great cars. Their how: We have leather seats, mp3 players, sportscar suspension, and great gas mileage. Most companies don’t even have a why. Profit is not a why; it is a result.

Sinek uses Apple as an example of a company that starts with why. Apple’s why (‘why’ is always a belief): We believe in doing things differently. We believe in challenging the status quo. Their how: We challenge the status quo by making products that are easy to use, beautifully designed, and user friendly. Their what: We make great computers. Want to buy one? Compelling.

Social media is the same way. Whether you are thinking about engaging customers, citizens or employees, start with the why. The why for social media is that people want:

  1. To contribute
  2. To be part of something bigger than themselves
  3. To make the world a better place

The how is Social media. Sharing authentically and passionately about what matters (to the person sharing).

The what is blogging, microblogging, tweets, status updates, uploading video and photos.

The golden circle for social media looks like this:

Golden Circle for Social Media