Australia’s Government 2.0 Future Part 4

Over the first three of my postings on the future direction of Australia’s Government 2.0 I identified three drivers that will shape politics, government and society over the next 20 years:

  1. Sharing information creating new knowledge that in turn leads to shared power between citizens, corporations and government (such as social regulation).
  2. Self-expression leading to new forms of social engagement and new relationships that in turn lead to better understanding of context and relevancy (such as fit-for-purpose rules).
  3. Addressing complex issues in an open and collaborative way transcending institutional, jurisdictional and geographic boundaries (such as networked policy and networked regulation).

Over time intelligence gathering, problem solving and service delivery will become less centralized and more distributed. Risk will be shared. Responsibility will be shared. Communicating and facilitating – letting ourselves be seen – are set to become core skills for public servants.

The potential implications from this dynamic over the next 20 years are profound. For large parts of government, centralised, standardised, institutionally structured rules will be far less durable in the more complex dynamic of openness and transparency. At the moment ‘Government 2.0′ is more like ‘Government’ as it has been for the last 100 years or so but with the addition of new tools. Connecting and communicating with external parties chiefly remains a responsibility for media and public relations specialists.  What’s needed are less structures that limit opportunities for fresh thinking, innovation and creativity, not more of the same.

Rule making will need to become adaptable and flexible for relevancy and fit-for-purpose. Processes will need to be scaled for social interaction as well as institutions. Relationships that matter will be meaningful relationships – interpersonal relationships that foster mutual understanding. Reputation and influence will matter much more in getting things done. The scale and scope of networked policy and regulation will scale naturally to suit the context – hyper-local through to completely global.

There are already examples of networked policy and networked regulation to guide government such as the open and transparent processes in the development of software and operating systems. But the most important dynamic over the next 20 years will be social, as those people ‘born digital’ enter the workforce and their networked ways of doing things become the norm and not the exception.  The workplace will change as more people connect, communicate and collaborate without going through centralised gateways. Such group connections have the potential to be powerful learning environments – far better able to adapt to shifting circumstances, and through being far better informed, more able to identify and implement fit for purpose solutions.

Getting there will be a transitionary process with new models of government and governance emerging from increased integration between decentralised networks of interconnected individuals and traditional models of centralised information production, problem solving and service delivery.

Australia’s Government 2.0 Future Part 3

I found that Venessa Miemis’s posting on Open Foresight helpful in thinking about how to address the future of Australia’s Government 2.0 as there are some close parallels. Venessa described the ‘open foresight’ concept a process for analysing “complex issues in an open and collaborative way, and to raise the bar on public discourse and forward-focused critical thinking”. Government 2.0. and ‘open foresight’ share the same challenges in addressing the transformation driven by new and emerging communications technologies and the behaviours those tools enable.

In the context of ‘Gov 2.0′ the interesting questions are:

  1. How are our notions of open government evolving?
  2. What role do social technologies play in the evolution of public opinion?
  3. What happens when Gov2.0 networks and collaboration teams form?
  4. What do emerging Gov2.0 governance models look like?
  5. How do public servants build knowledge together and become more effective learners?

You may notice that I’ve not mentioned government agencies in these questions. That’s deliberate because I feel that the future of Gov2.0 is more about networks and issues, and less about government agencies. Many Issues transcend organisational silos. Networks cross institutional, jurisdictional and geographic boundaries.

I’ll be given some more thought to the questions I’ve raised above, in particular on the potential for networked policy and networked regulation.

Australia’s Government 2.0 Future Part 2

Let ourselves be seen

In my first posting on this topic I stated that I would have some views to share about the cultural implications from Gov2.0. One of the greatest challenges for the public service in the short to medium term  is to let ourselves be seen; to expose our vulnerabilities and imperfections; to engage earlier and much more frequently with citizens and stakeholders in identifying problem issues and solutions; to engage with others as an ordinary, everyday activity.

But that challenge does not lie with public servants alone. For many citizens currently the machinery of government and policy development seems remote and they feel disconnected from it. The social challenge for citizens is to realise they can turn that notion on its head by engaging directly and constructively with government and with others through social media.

As connected consumers now have power through having access to much more information about goods and services, and new online stores to make purchase decisions, so to will citizens have more power to influence and shape government policy and practice.

A challenge that public servants and citizens share will be to foster new and authentic inter-relationships through social media engagement that were not possible before. That involves reaching out and making connections. It involves getting to know one another through sharing information … and through meaningful expression.

An open, learning dynamic

Out of these good relationships will come a deeper understanding of citizen and community circumstances and the identification and implementation of ‘fit-for-purpose’ solutions.

The outcome will be an open, learning dynamic that will be much faster to respond … in ways that are likely to be more relevant and therefore enduring.

 

Australia’s Government 2.0 Future Part 1

This posting sets out some of my thoughts about Government 2.0, with a focus on regulation for the moment. I’ll have things to say about public sector culture and practice in a later posting.

Social regulation

Put simply, regulations are rules to govern practice with the objective of protecting the interests of consumers and other issues of public interest (such as safety). In Australia at least there are three forms of ‘regulation':

  • government regulation (black letter law)
  • co-regulation (rules are developed by industry and may be enforced by government)
  • self-regulation (voluntary rules developed by industry)

Legislation covers both black letter law and co-regulation. Government has an interest in monitoring self-regulation where public interest issues are at stake to consider whether intervention may be necessary to secure public interest outcomes.

I believe the social web has ushered in another regulatory element  that I call ‘social regulation': where industry action is in effect governed in part through the expression of consumer and citizen views and information sharing via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media. While not a formalised type of regulation, ‘social regulation’ could influence the development of rules – either through direct participatory engagement or through some other form of influence.

Social regulation recognises that social media participants are not only less reliant on institutions (including government agencies, corporations and industry representative bodies) for access to information and knowledge, they create and curate their own content.

New business models have emerged that help informed consumers enhance their power. I have an application on my iPhone called ‘GetPrice‘ that provides me with price comparisons on consumer goods in my area, and the location of relevant retail outlets.

Social regulation has potential in my view to help consumers and communities of interest to take more responsibility for solving their problems – similar in concept to the United Kingdom’s Government call for a “big society” plan.

Readers of this blog or my Twitter profile may recall my own successful actions online to resolve service issues. I recently referred to VW Golf forum that saved me spending $950, contrary to the advice of the outfit that serviced my car.

In Here Comes Everybody Clay Shirky wrote about customers of HSBC bank setting up a page on Facebook to complain about HSBC withdrawing its policy on interest-free student overdraft facilities. Such was the strength of social networking on the Facebook site the bank quickly reversed the policy change.

Social regulation has the potential to solve problems faster through sharing more – and better –  information.

Social regulation has a default culture of disclosure and transparency whereas the culture of traditional regulation can be weighted down by confidentiality and bureaucratic processes.

I’m thinking of working up this theme of ‘social regulation’ to examine how it may evolve over the next 20 years and what its consequences for government and Gov 2.0 might be.

If you have a view on this, I’d love to hear from you.

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Minty-Fresh™.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 3,300 times in 2010. That’s about 8 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 7 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 114 posts. There were 3 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 115kb.

The busiest day of the year was September 14th with 43 views. The most popular post that day was Social media has created a new layer of influencers.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were clicologoexisto.wordpress.com, twitter.com, socialnomics.net, mycrazyreader.info, and bigextracash.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for brian solis, conversation prism brian solis, social networks, expressing capability, and conversation prism.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Social media has created a new layer of influencers August 2008
1 comment

2

About December 2007
2 comments

3

Mobiles and Social Web over the next 10 years: five megatrends February 2010

4

Largest increase in expressing capability in history June 2009

5

Trends and developments in communications and media technology, applications and use April 2009

The dilemma in providing skills for social business practice

Brian Solis has exposed the folly of many businesses in assuming their analogue-age communications and marketing processes can operate in similar ways in social media. The result is that many social media endeavours are “in reality, siloed and disconnected from the rest of the organisation”. Attempts to meld Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn with existing customer relationship management infrastructure results in failing “to see the human touch points to connect with the right people in the right places at the right time”. It’s an approach that betrays a lack of understanding about networked relationships, to have the “ability to engage influential consumers in a one-to-one-to-many practice to amplify intention, purpose, and value”. What’s is evidently lacking are networked literacy skills – knowing what a ‘follower’ count is worth; interpreting the significance of a tweet; knowing the value from a ‘like’ and appreciating the participation bandwidth from blog postings and comments.

An obvious problem is thinking that the skill-sets of established communications and marketing units are good enough for social media. The reality according to Brian Solis is that “social media are the gold mines of anthropology, sociology and ethnography”.  This is significant because most organisations have focused on recruiting commerce or law graduates whereas value creation in social media comes in no small way from embracing social science graduates. Understanding the relevance to business of why and how people connect with others to share things, to learn and to express themselves is emerging as a core competency along with accountancy, economics, engineering and legal systems. So there is a disjunct between the skills necessary to succeed as social businesses and the skills base to hand.

However, a much more significant problem is that most educational institutions have changed focus over the last few decades moving away from social science to churn out lots of commerce graduates in response the demands of business. There is a structural imbalance between the need to adapt and evolve as social businesses in a networked economy with the courses on offer by universities and business schools.

What a dilemma. It’s about time business groups and universities got together to address this fundamental imbalance in contemporary education.

Wisdom 2.0

For a long time I held the view that the value from strategic thinking and foresight is in applying that knowledge to developing strategic action plans.  Like many others I guess I started to question my assumptions while reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan.  From my point of view, Taleb’ s message basically was that people were fooling themselves by thinking that, in a constantly changing, unpredictable world, it is possible to really know what action to take that will be sustainable over time.

The challenge as I feel Taleb would define it is to constantly review and refine what to do in a world we don’t really understand as well as we think we do. The skill sets here are to be constantly alert to new, potentially disruptive developments, and to have the agility and resilience to take timely action. It’s like having a ‘ceaseless quest for learning’.

So it was with some pleasure that I found just that phrase – ceaseless quest for learning – in Umair Haque’s The Wisdom Manifesto. Haque used the phrase in the context of renewal: that the measure of a day spent wisely is a day where you learn five new things.  And Haque – as with Taleb – utterly debunks strategy as a worthwhile activity. For example Haque describes strategy to develop ‘best practice’ as limited in that it adds nothing new compared to the inherent value in wisdom from finding “…new ideas, concepts, and solutions” and “…acting on what people, communities and society lack”. The effort is not physical and intellectual energy but emotional and ethical too.

According to Taleb, being alert to constant flux and change necessarily involves regular interaction with people such as in cafes and attending social events – developing extended networks of relationships. It’s about being out there, tuned in and fully engaged. It’s not a new idea of course – the coffee houses in 18th century London and Vienna were hotbeds of innovation and creative thinking.

For organisations based on hierarchical layers and formulaic compliance protocols, that kind of wisdom lies beyond the pale. For those organisations really intent on finding new ideas and solutions, and where they are disposed to a ceaseless quest for learning (ie. they want to be wise organisations) then their people must be out there interacting with people – customers, clients, communities and citizens. This is where the internet and Web 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0 interaction kicks in. Haque refers to Starbucks crowd-sourced learning from mystarbucksidea. Perhaps it can encapsulated in the term ‘Wisdom 2.0′.

While ‘strategy’ seems to be limited, I still feel that strategic thinking still holds – indeed I feel it is central to the ‘ceaseless quest for learning’. Strategic thinking involves suspending your assumptions, being capable of dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty. That’s why I’m so active in social networking and social media – so I can tap into the constant flow of information and interact with people I would not otherwise have the opportunity to do so. So ‘Wisdom 2.0′ has meaning to me.