I'm reading an advance copy of a great new book called "If We Can Put a Man on the Moon"
by William D. Eggers and John O'Leary. The release date is set for November 19. Based on the first 100 pages, I'd compare it to the classic business books "Good to Great" or "Built to Last" - it's like "Good to Great" for government.
The main premise behind the book is found in this paragraph:
"There is indeed ample historical evidence that democratic governments can achieve great things. There is also ample evidence that democratic governments can fail in their attempts. The requirements for achieving great things are two simple but far from easy steps - wisely choosing which policies to pursue and then executing those policies. The difference between success and failure is execution."
The authors reveal several potential road blocks that prevent successful execution, including The Tolstoy Trap, The Stargate Trap, The Sisyphus Trap and the Silo Trap. They also outline the "journey to success" for most projects, which moves from idea to design through a "stargate" to implementation, results and reevaluation.
One of their most striking observations is that it is in the design phase where most policy takes its most unfortunate - and deadly - wrong turns. The book sparked me to ask Alan Silberberg of You2Gov
if his platform, which was created to enable citizen engagement with their elected officials, could facilitate greater communication between legislators on the Hill who essentially design policy and the public servants employed by government who ultimately implement their legislation.
As we tweeted back and forth on the idea, I made the following remark:
Here's where the conversation went from there:
: That would be awesome!
: Imagine the State of the Union w/a Twitterfall as backdrop (instead of VP & Speaker)! ;-) #gov20
: Actually with them!
: The more I'm thinking about it, the more it would be HUGE. Imagine REAL-TIME constituent feedback. Watch C-SPAN & tweet!!
: @cspan @housefloor - imagine live Twitterfall screen next to American Flag in full view, with simultaneous online feed.
: Hashtags could be the bill numbers to encourage direct comment and sorting.
: actually there needs to be systematized hashtags for bill numbers, also need to be mobile tags.
: Usual headline: Congress Fails - Now it would be "CongressFall" + the would also get "CongressSpam" and "CongressBot"
The key is enabling both citizens AND government employees to have a voice on the floor as policies are being prepared. According to Eggers and O'Leary, it's not about designing a bill so that it passes; it's about designing a bill so that it can be executed successfully.
As Alan points out, there would be some issues to overcome with the live Twitterfall idea, but that's part of the message of "If We Can Put A Man on the Moon" - how do we explore and test ideas using a "ready, fast aim, fire, repeat" approach? The authors recommend that all ideas experience a review process that includes asking the question "How could this fail?" and engage in "pre-engineering" activities so that it can "fail fast and fail small."
I would highly encourage you to pick up a copy of the book when it's released in November. In the meantime, would you tweet your members of Congress
and ask them to set up a Twitterfall so we can communicate with them as they're designing our common destiny?