Crossing the Gov 2.0 Chasm

Geoffrey Moore’s classic Crossing the Chasm is Silicon Valley’s manual for getting a tech product to market. Its straightforward subtitle, ‘Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers,’ should compel every Gov 2.0 enthusiast to read it. The movement would be well-served to understand how to better pitch the effort, because it’s the only way the great work being done will resonate with average citizens.

According to Moore’s famous chart, the successful adoption rate of a tech product occurs when it moves from ‘Early adopters’ to include ‘Early majority pragmatists.’ The chasm bridges the ‘Customers want technology and performance’ phase and the ‘Customers want solutions and convenience’ phase. When that happens, the product has crossed the chasm and is on path to mass consumption.

At this weekend’s Gov 2.0 LA ‘unconference,’ the subject of messaging was discussed during a panel with Mad About You producer and writer Bill Grundfest. The gist: Citizens don’t care how tech-savvy government is. Citizens want solutions and convenience. Christina Gagnier‘s overview, Gov 2.0: A Message from Hollywood to the Beltway, touches on how we can begin crossing the Gov 2.0 chasm:

The most important lesson from Grundfest: those in “politech” need to use hearts to change minds, not “minds to change minds.” A compelling story, an interactive video or a personal conversation can go a long way in recruiting citizens to the cause. Even if the government cannot fix all our problems, it still can provide space for citizens to be heard. That really is the half the battle. There are many people who simply feel like they do not count, whether at the local level when that same pothole does not get fixed or at the federal level with a national debate like the one surrounding healthcare. Government 2.0 has to be about conversations and connections, not just open source code and policies.

Gagnier’s article compelled Gov 2.0 Expo co-chair Mark Drapeau to ask the question Does the Public Currently Need to Know What ‘Government 2.0′ Is? In his own post, Drapeau writes:

One, the current audience for Government 2.0 conversations is currently not the American people; it is the tech and government elite. For better or worse, that’s mainly who’s interested in contributing blogs, attending events, and so forth, and so that is what the conversation reflects. This might change in the future, but currently these are the people who care most about, who the next CTO will be, and so forth. Citizens are the intended recipients of Government 2.0, but not usually participants in how it should come about, what the policies governing it should be, which technologies should be utilized, and so forth.

Drapeau’s right about the role of jargon. Understandably, every industry has its own language. It helps insiders efficiently communicate with one another when talking shop.

However, it’s the movement’s job to figure out how best to convey the value of Gov 2.0 to citizens. It’s time to move beyond the inside baseball echo chamber.

Why? Two reasons. First, because government moves slow. Communicating the value to the masses sooner, rather than later, would go a long way in getting decision-makers and high-level government officials to move faster on open data and open government initiatives. Once citizens get the value or return on investment and demand action, you can bet officials will respond.

Second, there’s no reason not to.

Gov 2.0 has its fair share of CIOs and CTOs. Gov 2.0 now needs more CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers).

Whether you’re selling Gov 2.0 internally or externally, read Moore’s book. Maybe you’ll be the next Steve Govs, Seth Govin or Gov Kawasaki.

Luke Fretwell is the founder of the civic innovation and technology blog GovFresh. He advises civic leaders and businesses on how to best leverage digital strategies to create more effective, collaborative governments. He has written about government IT for Federal Computer Week, NextGov, FedScoop, StateScoop and FierceGovernment, and has been referenced by the Washington Post and Fast Company on civic technology issues. He has worked with a number of government-focused companies and media, including CivicActions, NuCivic and FedScoop and has been involved in broad-focused community efforts, such as GovPress, CityCamp, CivicMeet, Agile Government Leadership and Open Source for America. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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