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Six Villains of Gov 2.0

This post originally appeared on my external blog, “Social Media Strategery.

I recently came across this funny (and too true) post by Todd Heim on social media villains that piqued both my long-time interest in super-heroes and super-villains and all things Government 2.0 too. While we pump up the Gov 2.0 Heroes (and even had an entire Day dedicated to them), and we hold conferences to highlight the work done by these heroes, I haven’t seen the opposite side get its due. Well, I’d like to dedicate this post to the people who make government innovation so difficult, the people who have stood in our way for years, the people who have been classified as hurdles, obstacles, and barriers – the Villains of Gov 2.0.

Dr. Closed Mind

“Yeah, that’s a great idea, but we don’t have time for that – just focus on doing your job!”

Description: Dr. Closed Mind has the ability make even the most new and innovative ideas seem like frivolous wastes of time. He thrives on doing things his way because that’s “the way they’ve always done.” By relying on the force of inertia and his extreme stubbornness, he’s able to simultaneously frustrate his numerous adversaries as well as advance his own career. Dr. Closed Mind is focused on checking off his task list and will aggressively squash any attempt to disrupt that routine.

Strengths: Able to avoid changing his routine for years on end; leverages allies in the legal and IT security departments to maintain the status quo; super-human ability to make stagnation appear to seem like laser-like focus.

Weaknesses: Transparency. By exposing the outdated and often inefficient methods of Dr. Closed Mind to more people, you can help shine a light on the work of Dr. Closed Mind and force his leadership to ask him the often-deadly question of “why aren’t we doing it like this instead?”

The Downer

“Sure, it’d be great to do that, but unfortunately, we’re not allowed. I hate working here :(“

Description: The Downer is a deceptively strong villain, capable of destroying the morale of even the strongest teams. Through near constant talk of policies, regulations, and costs, The Downer calls attention to every possible reason why an idea can’t and won’t work, yet is unable to see the potential benefits. Changing policies, getting buy-in, and taking risks

Strengths: Able to destroy morale with a single agenda item; has the uncanny ability to rattle off the most obscure policies and regulations; able to turn “quick wins” into insignificant activities that will never amount to anything;

Weaknesses: Change. By highlighting positive changes that have occurred, The Downer’s seemingly immense pessimism can be slowly chipped away and he starts to see that things can change.

The Money-Monger

“I’ve had Ashton Kutcher retweet me – I can show you how to do that too!”

Description: Seeing business development opportunities wherever he goes, the Money-Monger (also known by the aliases “Social Media Ninja” and “Social Media Guru”) has a Red Bull-fueled energy for telling everyone who will listen how he can help them use social media…for a price. He will probably talk about how to increase your Twitter followers, guarantee that he can create “viral videos,” and tell you how easy social media is.

Strengths: Master of ulterior motives. Able to see a business opportunity where no one ever had before. Immune to common social etiquette, meaningful relationships, and small talk. Has mastered the ability to create 50 slide presentations without one bit of actual thought on any of the slides.

Weaknesses: Strategy. Weaken the Money-Monger’s defenses by asking him how he measures the effectiveness of his tactics that does NOT involve the number of friends, fans, or followers. Force the Money-Monger to show how social media will help accomplish your agency’s mission.

Captain Conservative

“This sounds like a great idea, but let’s make sure that we circulate it with everyone and get their buy-in first.”

Description: Captain Conservative is often both a villain and an ally of the Gov 2.0 Heroes. While Captain Conservative is often supportive of the Gov 2.0 Heroes, he lives by the mantra of “always ask for permission first or you may get fired.” He’s been brainwashed by two of his former mentors, Dr. Closed Mind and The Downer, who have unfortunately, scrambled his brain. While his intentions are good, the mental scars of his former mentors still appear strong.

Strengths: Through his sheer likability, Captain Conservative is often able to embed himself into teams early on, only to systematically dismantle them through long, prolonged review and approval processes. He often leaves no visible traces of the damage he causes and often emerges from the failed project unscathed.

Weaknesses: Top Cover. By securing the approval of people located above Captain Conservative on the org chart, you can mitigate his fear of doing something wrong and getting in trouble for it.

The Silo

“We’d love to be more collaborative…as long as no one outside of my team can get in and mess with our stuff.”

Description: One of the more powerful Gov 2.0 villains, The Silo is known for his ability to protect sandboxes with a maniacal sense of urgency. The Silo always considers he and his team unique, and has an almost paranoid fear that everyone else has the worst intentions in mind. By keeping a stranglehold on his data and his team, The Silo has the ability to set the precedent that sharing data is optional, poisoning an entire organization’s thinking. Ironically, The Silo is often an outspoken advocate of collaborative tools…as long as he gets final say over who’s collaborating with whom.

Strengths: Seeming collaborative while actually not being collaborative; able to craft incredibly detailed stories about people getting fired, killed, maimed, reprimanded for sharing data; has the innate ability to create a PDF version of virtually everything he and his team share; very comfortable with managing incredibly detailed access controls.

Weaknesses: Open Platforms. Without the ability to restrict access, The Silo is unable to hoard information and lock it away so he is forced to either use the new tools and share, or use his old methods.

The Information Sucker

“Can you send me any materials you have – someone was asking me about Gov 2.0 and I want to be able to talk with them.”

Description: The Information Sucker paints himself as a friend of the Gov 2.0 Heroes, but in reality, he’s only focused on advancing his own career. The Information Sucker is keenly aware of the increased attention being paid to open government initiatives and wants to get in on the action without actually doing any of the work. Viewing attribution as a weakness, The Information Sucker makes nice with the Gov 2.0 Heroes and then sucks every last idea and product from them that he can, only to disappear and resurface months later to much fanfare because of the “new and innovative ideas” that he’s brought to his team.

Strengths: Deftly able to conceal his true motives; extreme copy and paste abilities; able to pull together entire presentations and proposals without actually needing to understand what he’s writing; excellent ability to insert latest buzzwords into his speech.

Weaknesses: Probing Questions. Because The Information Sucker’s “expertise” has been gained from a few white papers and PowerPoint presentations, his outer shell can be penetrated with follow-up questions.

Beware of the Gov 2.0 Villains – they’re lurking everywhere, sometimes concealing their identity, sometimes not even aware of their own villainous ways. Rather than attacking and defeating these villains, we would do well to befriend and educate them. The best way to neutralize a Gov 2.0 Villain is to turn them into a Gov 2.0 advocate.

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Scott Burns

Very funny. I have to admit that I checked this out hoping you were going to really mix it up and name real people… this is probably more fun and less controversial. The weaknesses are also instructive.

Steve Radick

@Scott – While naming names would be good link-bait, it would likely cause more damage than good. After all, at some point, I think a lot of current Gov 2.0 advocates started out as villains but were turned to the light side by a hero :).


I run into a lot of Debbie Downers and Money Mongers these days which really ring a bell.

I always try to pump up the Debbie Downers and convince them that nobody has it easy. All the Gov 2 Heroes have had to fight and sell their initiatives internally. No new idea comes easy to an organization.

Dannielle Blumenthal

When I saw this I thought it was hilarious and right on the mark. But I think we’re missing a villain – “Donna the Daredevil” – just wants to try every new technology but doesn’t really care if it serves any purpose or is compliant with federal law. They’re also impatient about going through the process of documenting the technologies’ strengths, weaknesses, redundancies with existing tools, etc.

The primary strength of the daredevils is that we wouldn’t have social media without ’em – precisely because government is so oriented towards stasis. Plus they go where the customer is rather than making the customer come to them.

But their weakness is that by rushing forward to embrace everything and anything in the social media space, they run a few key risks including 1) breaking 508 accessibility law 2) compromising credibility with senior leadership because they seem impulsive and don’t take the time to develop a business case 3) wasting time on technologies that can’t work (that last one doesn’t bother me much because I think you do have to try things out to see if they work)

Steve Radick

@Danielle – I’ve run into a few “Donna Daredevil’s” here at my company, but I didn’t include them here because I didn’t exactly classify them as a villain. I look at them almost as junior Heroes because their intentions are usually good, they’re just a little too aggressive in what they do. I’ve found these people to often come from the political campaign background where they were able to control a lot of what they did, there was often no approvals needed, and they were encouraged to get out there and try new things. When they bring this same attitude and experience to government, they tend to need a lot of mentoring to help them adapt and adjust. At the same time, (as you mention) their enthusiasm and risk-taking do help push the rest of us forward sometimes. It’s a constant balance with Donna Daredevils 🙂

Henry Brown

Have seen “my share” of this “villain”

Their Response is usually “Why that technology is unproven and we don’t have the resources to correct any issues if the process proves to have flaws

IMO this type has been around since organizations. Just tends to “perhaps” show up more frequently now that Gov 2.0 has at least opened a few more doors.

Unfortunately I have been unable to figure out how to convert these people, other than removing them from having any influence.

Recent examples could be:

* The opposition by some organizations to permit even internal blogs
* The opposition to Teleworking
* The opposition to setting up Twitter accounts
* The opposition to allowing internet access to all employees

Steve Radick

@Henry – that villain is a common one that I’ve seen floating around too, although I’d classify these guys under the “Captain Conservative” category. Perhaps these are the ultra conservative Captain Conservatives though 🙂

Andrew Krzmarzick

Would be cool to have a “Vanquish the Villain” event – focusing solely on the super-psychology around change initiatives…could break peeps out into groups based on these villains…how do we convert them? Could do role play – one person acts as villain and others work to persuade…could be fun/valuable.

Costumes optional 🙂

AJ Malik

Steve, great post. What about the role of Gov 2.0 mild mannered superhero, Ringmaster, who has to engage, interact, educate, get buy-in, and effect change, with all of these anti-Gov 2.0 villains, in order to overcome their passive aggressive resistance to Gov 2.0 innovation and transformation?

Kathleen Smith

How about the Age Wizened Methuselah who has seen everything, done everything and it won’t make a bit of difference becuase it is just a fad.