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What are the new competencies/skills we’ll need in the Web 2.0/Gov 2.0 world?

That question has been cropping up a lot recently. It’s going to be a whole new world. Surely it will demand new things from us. The thinking around here is – not so much. It’s the same old competencies applied in a new context. Let’s take a couple of examples:

1. We recently had a speaker who was talking about the impact of Web 2.0 on journalism, communications and government. He rightly pointed out that a significant effect of the change to “citizen-journalism” is the loss of the editorial role and the independent fact-checking that comes with it. He (in my opinion) incorrectly suggested that this would require a new skill from readers: determining how valid the information is.

Who believes that we can trust everything we read/see from mainstream media: that no papers or channels (or columnists) have biases that affect what they write, print or show? That’s why we have media literacy classes in our schools. The basic competency, required in any research, is the same. We need to be able to critically evaluate information sources for reliability, accuracy and bias. It’s true online. But it’s true offline, too.

2. It has also been suggested that a key competency that is emerging in the Web 2.0/Gov 2.0 is the ability to get order and structure in the babble of voices when everyone is talking (online) at the same time on the same subject. Online consultations can be pretty hectic – just ask the people who ran the New Zealand Police Act wiki! But isn’t this really just the “facilitation” skill that we know and love from our Offline/Web 1.0/Gov 1.0 world? Is it really a new competency, or the same old competency at a high level, just applied in a new setting?

I can buy this thinking, but I’m not sure that I’m ready to put all my eggs in that basket. Let’s take another example. Skill in building online communities would seem to be pretty vital for Gov 2.0. Of course, this could be just the same “building communities” competency that some people have had for who knows how many thousands of years. Is there any difference with online communities? Maybe not. One thing that might be worth considering is the role of non-verbal communication and body language in community building (the ability to read it and the ability to respond to it). There is some research that is out there that this is pretty fundamental to our community building. If we are using something different to build our online communities (where we can’t read body language) then does it count as a different skill?

Finally, Gov 2.0 competencies might not be “new competencies” as much as “competencies that are new to government”. If government undergoes a fundamental change, it makes sense to expect the skills required will change, too. One suggestion I’ve heard is that the “engagement” skills, which have always been important but used to be required only of a few government workers, will need to be much more pervasive as the boundary between the government and the public becomes much more porous.

What do you think? Are there any new skills/competencies we’ll need?

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To me it is a range of skills – design + external communications + tech savvy + creativity + people skills. A lot of it revolves around the mix of IT, HR, and PR.

I think it is a blend of skills and it is the A Whole New Mind (Daniel Pink) right-brand thinking that is necessary.

Let’s sure hope there is not a Gov 2.0 certificate being developed.

Charles Roberson

Perhaps it’s not that there are new skills to be developed, necessarily, but that it’s either a re-emphasis on the importance of certain skills or a different prioritization of skills that we already have. I think that one of the key issues facing us regarding this technology is figuring out how to keep information from being too specialized. For example, it used to be that a person would rely on mainstream media as a primary source of information. It may be biased, as you point out, but generally, this source of information is going to at least give a nod to convergent views on a given issue. Now, the web comes along and I can do searching on a vast array of topics and I can pick and choose what I want to read and I can socialize with like-minded individuals in specialized chat rooms or blogs or whatever, and I can fairly easily filter out any information that isn’t a part of my world-view. In other words, if I don’t want my views challenged, or if I want to associate with people who think, look, act, and believe just as I do, I can now make that happen…to the detriment of discourse, work relations, and ultimately idea generation and growth. In this environment, already established skills become increasingly important. I think, for instance, the roles of facilitator or fact checker become critical in Gov 2.0. Facilitators are going to be responsible for making sure that the “chatter” comes from a healthy variety of sources and views, and making sure that audience members are getting 360 degrees of content, in addition to making sense of the sheer volume of it all. Bias-free fact checking, while always important, will become paramount in the “New World” of 2.0, as the sources of, and access to, data increases.

Of course, being able to use the tech tools will also be important. Being tech savvy is a good thing, so long as we continue to view technology as a means and not the end.

Despite the glaring economic problems, in many ways this is a very exciting time in our history. I think what Adriel says about adaptability is 100% dead on, and who knows what fun things we are going to be able to adapt to, in 2.0 and 3.0 and beyond.

I’m also having fun envisioning a boardroom where IT, HR, and PR folks are meeting to hammer out issues. I figure it would be, what, 15 minutes until the actual screaming started? Maybe 20 if the facilitator is HR based… :o)

David Tallan

Thanks for the feedback. I think “adaptability” or “nimbleness” is one of those new competencies that may not be a new one but is sometimes new to government. As a large bureaucracy, we can be slow to change. On the other hand, changing administrations can force quick changes on occasion (despite what all of those “Yes, Minister” and “Yes, Prime Minister” episodes on BBC led me to believe).

I agree with the comment about socializing with like minded individuals. However, it is possible for that polarization to happen off-line as well. Certain papers and channels are well known for their partisan news. And what I am finding with the blurring of my work and social life online, where I follow colleagues on Twitter and connect with them in social networks, is that I am exposed to their views on a number of subjects which aren’t always the same as mine. So the other views have a way of creeping in.

In our environment, we have the IT and Communications people meeting regularly, often with the program area folks. But we haven’t been so successful at bringing in the HR folk (although some of them, especially those involved with training, have started to drop by and ask questions about Web 2.0). And let’s not start talking about the Procurement folk.

David Tallan

I think that there will be more use of technology – but that doesn’t necessarily mean more technical skills – unless you tend to think of email and word processing as technical skills. One of the fundamental features of Web 2.0 technologies is that they don’t require technical skills. Fundamentally, from a reader perspective, there is nothing in a blog that couldn’t have been accomplished in 1995. The difference is that in 1995, from an authors point of view it would have required technical skills (HTML and perhaps some scripting for comments). What made blogs revolutionary and ubiquitous was that they don’t require tech skills to set up and maintain. Similarly, IT training is not needed to contribute to WIkipedia.

I expect that the incorporation of these tools will follow the same pattern as email and word processing. People will have to use the technology. But it won’t be seen as an “IT skill” but a business skill. And, as with email and word processing, where the real competency is the writing, not the tool; we’ll find something similar with our Web 2.0 tools.

Mark Danielson

Perhaps effective communication using language and media together with accessible technology (to refine solutions to issues faced by groups) are the ‘new’ competencies I see for 2.0. These competencies (some think competency minimums) have been achieved by enough people in the world to a establish new paradigm in communication and social behavior.

But maybe I’ve been reading too many anthropology blogs.

Walter Neary

I’d love to know who the speaker was who said
> He (in my opinion) incorrectly suggested that this would require a new skill from readers: determining how >valid the information is.

Because he is actually right. We have a mentally troubled individual with a long police record and who dresses up as a priest. Needless to say, he has some issues. Under the old rules, he would get maybe one quote a year into the newspaper. He now sends out long and detailed emails that sound perfectly plausible to anyone who does not know the facts. And he has photos of himself serving at some unnamed church in some capacity, suggesting ministry and thus creating credibility.

I don’t know the exact wording of what your speaker said, but he’s right …in an era of 1 to 1 communication where we all prefer to trust each other (I mean … is your name really David? I assume it is) we need to develop ways to identify people who bring unidentified issues to the table.

Emma Dozier

There should be more responsibility on our (the people who “get it;” often the people who are building these new technologies or evangelizing them) shoulders too. We can design and develop these tools so change isn’t as scary; that the tools are so obviously helpful that everyone would be quick to jump on it.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Interesting post, David. Two thoughts:

1. “As with email and word processing, where the real competency is the writing, not the tool; we’ll find something similar with our Web 2.0 tools.” Maybe a new competency is being able to communicate thoughts briefly and effectively a la Twitter’s 140 characters or less. As technology becomes more mobile, everything will be read on a 2″x2″ screen…brevity + impact = 2.0 success. Or at least the ability to capture attention that leads to a longer conversation.

2. Can the new competencies be tied to the “old” competencies, such as OPM’s Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs) for Senior Executive Service (SES) candidates….or do they need to be re-worked for the next generation of leaders? The ECQs and accompanying competencies are below:

ECQ 1: Leading Change
– Creativity and Innovation
– External Awareness
– Flexibility
– Resilience
– Strategic Thinking
– Vision

ECQ 2: Leading People
– Conflict Management
– Leveraging Diversity
– Developing Others
– Team Building

ECQ 3: Results Driven
– Accountability
– Customer Service
– Decisiveness
– Entrepreneurship
– Problem Solving
– Technical Credibility

ECQ 4: Business Acumen
– Financial Management
– Human Capital Management
– Technology Management

ECQ 5: Building Coalitions
– Partnering
– Political Savvy
– Influencing/Negotiating

David Tallan

Walter: I certainly wasn’t saying that we don’t need the skill of analytically assessing information: its source, its reliability, its bias, etc. here in the online world. I just disagreed that the same skill wasn’t necessary in the old print/radio/tv/web1.0 world. That’s why here in Ontario, media literacy is part of our school curriculum. This kind of source analysis is an essential part of any research, as I learned back in University before the Web (or when it was limited to a server at CERN). It’s not a new skill.

Do they give out ugov.gov addresses to aliases?

David Tallan

Andrew: Re: ECQs:

I think that is exactly where my team is coming from when they say that Gov 2.0 won’t call for new compentencies. It will just provide new tools and skills to accomplish the old ones.

Despina Babbage

cultural skills and agility, an ‘open-source ego’ (where we acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers) and that when we do have some insights, to be open to sharing power to create a partnership. This means shedding the paternalistic need to control the agenda all the time.

Doug Boynton

Mr. Roberson hit on a point that resonates with me.

Example – I lived in Detroit, and as a young man, asked my dad for a subscription to the Detroit Free Press, known then (but not to me) as a publication with an editorial posture distinctly different than the competing Detroit News. Dad got me the Free Press, but also The News. I got Newsweek, but also Time, and US News.

Point is – you could read two or three publications, and get a fairly well-rounded sense of what’s going on. With blogs, my feeling is that I’d have to read many more than two or three to get that same sense. I worry that I don’t have that much time not only to read ’em, but to discover which ones they are.

And I continue to feel that we’re just two or three large and high-profile defamation lawsuits away from a very different blogging environment.

Kitty Wooley

Steve, I just saw your comment, “Let’s sure hope there is not a Gov 2.0 certificate being developed,” and laughed out loud. Couldn’t agree more.

A lot of good points have been made on this page. David, I’ve been lumping the new competencies/skills we’ll need under the general heading of “behavior that inspires trust and supports helpful interactivity among people and institutions.”