Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Update: 1-2-3

Hey all, I just wanted to share 1 innovative piece of work, 2 new blogs, and 3 books worth reading.

One Innovation

For those of on twitter you may have seen frustrations being expressed by public servants who wanted a GEDS directory that displayed properly on a mobile device. Well Shawn Hooper has taken a couple of hours to build it himself. Keep in mind it's beta and not endorsed but I have bookmarked the site on both my blackberries. Oh and it is available in both languages.

Kudos and thank you to Shawn!

Two Blogs

There are a couple of new public servant blogs on the block worth looking into:

Public Service of the Future by Colin Hoult and Serving Canadians by Kim Burnett.

Three Books

(1)Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith

Being someone who works with and generally loves the web I was pretty excited to read this book. After reading it I wasn't disappointed. Brogan and Smith named a lot of things that I was already doing in my role in the public service and gave me some new insights that I hadn't thought of yet. Think of Trust Agents as Scheming Virtuously in a non-public service web-based environment. That being said there were numerous times where I drew an easy parallel between Brogan and Smith's private sector examples and how we operate in the government of Canada. Looking back, one of the my favourite quotations (because of its implications) is this:

Look at this way: there's a tidal wave coming, and it's made of people. Some will run some and some will ignore it, but others will be ready and find a way to roll with it. Those who win are the ones who are always prepared; while some of people are hiding their heads in the sand, the winners are anticipating change and finding a ton of opportunities. You can be one of them. (p. 184)

I know first hand that being prepared and embracing that human tidal wave can lead to tremendous opportunity in government. Doing so makes you an instant leader in a culture where the majority of people still bury their heads in the sand.

(2)What Would Google Do by Jeff Jarvis

I must say that as someone who is interested in innovation this book completely blew my mind. There are tons of great examples that reinforced my belief that the public service could accomplish so much more if we shifted our culture away from one that was based on controlling scarcity to managing abundance (a core tenet of what Google does according to Jarvis). I have a couple (three actually) of awesome quotations that I want to share:

“When people can openly talk with, about, and around you, screwing them is no longer a valid business strategy.” (p. 102)

“They lost their destinies because they wanted to save their pasts. Protection is not a strategy for the future.” (p. 110)

(Note: in this final quotation Jarvis was speaking about students and education but I have edited the quotation in order to make it more directly applicable to the public service. Edits are denoted with “[]” brackets.)

“What if we told [public servants] that, like Google engineers, they should take one day a week for one course in term or one year [to] create something … [The public service] could act as an incubato, advising, pushing, nurturing their ideas and efforts. What would come of it? Great things and mediocre things. But it would for [public servants] to take greater responsibility for what they do and to break out of the straitjacket of uniformity. It would make them ask questions before they are told answers. It would reveal to them their own talents and needs. The skeptic will say that not every student is responsible enough to be a self starter. Perhaps. But how will we know [public servants'] capabilities to put them in a position to try? And why structure [the public service] for everyone around the lowest common denominator of a few?” (p. 212)

Nuff said.

(3)If We Can Put a Man on the Moon... Getting Big Things Done in Government by D. Eggers and John O'Leary

I just started this book but I can already tell I am going to enjoy it. The real life (American) examples hammer home the points with sufficient impact. I can already tell that this book is not about abstractions but rather about how to actually implement something to achieve an impact. I am only a few dozen pages in but just wanted to share this quote with you:

“Government and its work are more complicated than in the past as well. One hundred years ago, the cutting-edge innovation was the bureaucracy. The bureaucratic model of government served rather well for a long time, but as tasks and technology changed, so did the systems of government used to do its work. As public officials are discovering, approaches such as public-private partnerships and governing by network are far more complicated, from a systems perspective, than traditional bureaucratic operations. Our understanding of these increasingly complex arrangements hasn't kept pace with the reality of modern governance.”

If this book can help me in any way deal with these issues, and I have a feeling it will, it's will be well worth the read. If you are interested you might want to check out the interview the authors did with Adriel Hampton on Government 2.0 Radio.

I must also say that despite not having finished Man on the Moon yet (on about page 75) the synergy between the three books is incredibly interesting. Now they are by no means the same but I can see my thought processes building and interconnecting the ideas from all three of the books.


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