Friday, March 22, 2013

Using the disruptive web to your advantage

I'm excited to be off to Toronto today (vacation) to deliver a pair of workshops to students at Humber College.  As you likely know by now I am very particular about my presentations. I spend countless hours agonizing over images, placement, word choice and the relationship between the different elements; here's what I've come up with:

(Aside: Yes, I take vacation days to deliver pro bono workshops to students about the intersection of social media and the public sector.)

Given that this has eaten up most of my time this week, I wanted to (again) share some key messages from my presentation. In many ways this presentation is the natural extension of some of the ground I covered last week (see: Thoughts on the Disruptive Web), it runs the gamut from the philosophical and the practical and back and while my speaking notes are quite extensive (each workshop is an hour long) what follows is the hard and fast of it because, quite frankly, my flight is less than 8 hours away.

Use the Disruption to your Advantage

You need to get out ahead of the curve and build your brand. If you don'd define yourself, someone else will (or, perhaps, they already have).

Find your Niche

Draw a Venn diagram and pencil in 3 of your interests; this is your niche. This is your new wheelhouse. Google the three terms together. Start reading, make notes. Who are the big players? What are the big ideas? Where is the controversy?
Find the boundaries between these three things are explore them; be a Trickster. Mash things up that others tell you have no business being mashed up and see what shakes loose.

Start Writing

When you write, include hyperlinks to the things you've read recently that have informed your opinions. Whenever possible comment on the works of others and leave a link back to your own site. Avoid bullshit comments like "great post". First of all those comments don't add value to the conversation, second it doesn't help you build a rapport with the author. Tease something out, build on something they wrote, or challenge (not troll) them.

Start Sharing

Have a plan on how to push your content to all the big services. Explore a service like If This Then That (see: What Organizations Can Learn from If This Then That) to automate your cross publication. Be predictable, check in regularly. Something that doesn't do well on Facebook may play well with Twitter. And don't underestimate other subscription options, especially email.
Start Connecting

Spend time being helpful to other people online, share things you think may be valuable to them (not just things you write) and ask them to reciprocate. Ask people to guest blog, offer to guest blog, find places to syndicate your content to that help you reach your niche audience.

Set up Google Alerts

To let you know when people are talking about you (your name) or linking to your site so you can engage them (or defend your position).

Find 1,000 True Fans

A true fan is someone who can't wait to see your next work. They subscribe to it, read it, comment on it, push it to their social graph and help you amplify your reach. 
In other words, they help you find other fans. 1,000 people might sound like a lot but it’s a completely achievable number. Govloop – a large US based online social network for government workers –  already has over 60,000 members and if you are writing on issues in the public sector it is a perfect place to start. The community managers actively curate and promote content via their main page, RSS feeds and daily email newsletters. It's in their interest to help you connect with your true fans.
Understand the Risks

If you choose to try your hand at influencing old systems with new technologies you will likely be challenged along the way. The culture inside large public institutions is often at odds with the culture outside of it. 
There is evidence however that the culture is changing, that we are transitioning from the early adopters to early majority (see: Mapping Internal Policy to the Hype Cycle), but there is still a lot of distance to cover. The government of Canada has recently launched a Deputy Minister's committee on Social Media and Policy, HRSDC ran a call for concepts related to social finance that has been called a crowdsourcing by many exercise, and yesterday's budget announcement had a number of social media elements.

Walk the Line

In short there is still much work to be done and if you want to engage in it you need to be prepared to alienate some, be ignored by others while also exciting and engaging those whom are interested. Ultimately the choice is yours, but I can say with conviction that the public service – that all public services – are in desperate need of new blood, new thinking, and new energy.
Is that something you are up for?

Originally published by Nick Charney at
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Friday, March 15, 2013

Thoughts on the disruptive web

I spoke to a group of civil servants this week as part of their development program's lunchtime speaker series; the talk covered a lot of ground and I wanted to take the opportunity to share some of my key messages from the discussion.

The web is disruptive

The internet has disrupted, is disrupting, or will disrupt every business model currently in use today. To think it hasn't, isn't or won't disrupt the public sector is naive at best. Understanding the impacts of these changes is critical to understanding the role of the public service because context is key and the context is now constantly changing.

GCPEDIA is a microcosm of a larger problem

GCPEDIA is still the only open communications tool that holds that could help us mitigate our geographic, ministerial and hierarchical information challenges and yet we have tremendous difficulty integrating it into the fabric of our business. The fact that as an organization we have such difficulty understanding how to best lever a technology (wikis) that is (conceptually) almost 20 years old concerns me (see: Debunking the Myths of Working More Openly).

But this is likely just a symptom of a larger problem. The cognitive dissonance we create by expecting new recruits to use desktop computers, blackberries, and slow, heavily blocked internet connections when they have spent their time at university learning how to collaborate over iPhones, MacBooks, and uninhibited internet is even more unsettling. Surely there is a rising productivity cost associated with maintaining the status quo that could be minimized by moving to bring your own device (BYOD) environments.

The culture is falling behind

The web gives us a window into the best in class work cultures and sets global expectations around what a work place could offer; in other words, like it or not, this is the workplace culture your office is competing with.

I understand that government offices can't compete with Google in terms of technology but that doesn't mean that we can't build a culture that places greater emphasis on key motivators such as autonomy, mastery, and purpose (see: Motivation and Incentives in the Public Service). Ultimately I think these these qualities not only effect how motivated we are but also our ability to deliver the fearless advice that has historically been our hallmark. Autonomy is closely linked to impartiality, mastery determines quality, and purpose sharpens our focus. The lack of cultural emphasis on these elements has likely contributed to what I view as the skewing of the balance between fearless advice and loyal implementation (See: On Fearless Advice and Loyal Implementation and On Risk, Fearless Advice and Loyal Implementation).

The fix is in new ways of thinking

The solution to our technological and cultural challenges - I think - is to encourage more public servants to be tricksters; encourage them to explore and integrate ideas that typically "don't have a place in the bureaucracy"; encourage them to take the risks, reap the rewards, and most importantly, accept the responsibility (See: Innovation is Tricky, Literally and Finding Innovation)

These are not easy things to do, but they are the things we must do.

Originally published by Nick Charney at
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Friday, March 8, 2013

So I'm back at work now ...

So I'm back at work officially after a 6 week hiatus to deal with the implosion of my parental unit, it’s not pretty, there are sweeping implications, I'm exhausted, frustrated, and trying really hard not to let bleed into my interactions with my kids, my wife, and my day job now that I'm back in the office. But I'm seeing a counsellor through the Employee Assistance Program and otherwise trying to take care of myself.

DM Committee on Social Media and Policy

While I was out of commission there was a Deputy Minister level Committee struck on Social Media and Policy Development which according to the Privy Council Office website “Considers the linkages between social media and policy-making, including new models for policy development, public engagement and the role of the public servant in the social media sphere.” They have a GCPEDIA page that you may wish to check out and/or leave your comments as well as an English and French Twitter feed that you may wish to follow. I don’t have any further details but assume they will emerge via any of the links I have provided above.

The formation of a committee at this level could signal the arrival of the early majority to the social media and policy-making discussion. It provides a certain amount of legitimacy and will hopefully provide an opportunity for early adopters to add their accumulated knowledge to the mix in a more systematic and official way. I for one dropped a link on the GCPEDIA page to a deck I put together articulating typical organizational policy responses to the diffusion of emerging communications technologies.

Interesting article in the Ottawa Citizen provokes a Book Club

A discussion on Twitter about an article entitled “Thirty years of business-like “reforms” have backfired on the public service: expert” (worth reading BTW) in the citizen last week prompted a discussion about starting a book club that you may or may not be interested in. Here’s an internal link to the discussion on GCConnex that fleshes it out more fully.

See you around the digital water cooler.

Originally published by Nick Charney at
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