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.

About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh, co-founder/CEO of ProudCity and co-host of the podcast, The Government We Need. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at

15 Responses

  1. I don’t see the relevance of the chasm here, because Government 2.0 is not a product being marketed to people. It is more accurately a set of ideas that people in and with government are working on in order to make government better.

    Even government, per se, is not a product being marketed to people. The government is the company, in your analogy. The government has products and services (social security checks, fire departments, etc.) which are marketed to people, in some sense.

    There’s no need to explain the Gov 2.0 discussion to 300 million people in the U.S. and billions around the globe.
    The only measure of success as far as citizens are concerned is: Is the government serving them better? There’s no jargon involved in that.

  2. Couldn’t agree with you more Luke, but the point largely goes beyond just the topic of “Gov 2.0.”

    There’s a currently a wide disparity in how agencies communicate with the citizenry in general. Those with externally-focused mission tend to be the best. The military and HHS are good examples of using multi-channel, full-featured communications campaigns (just wrote about the latest Census campaign that does the same: and CDC has an entire health marketing team:, but many agencies that have more of an “intra-government” role in the past will find it harder to adjust to the new paradigm where *all* agencies are being charged to be more transparent and interactive with the citizens they ultimately serve.

    In this regard, more CMOs would be a good thing.

  3. Marc, while I agree “Gov 2.0” is the process, not the product, I don’t think agencies can take a “if we build it they will come” approach.

    Citizens aren’t used to looking to interact with their government via new channels like Facebook, Twitter and the like. They aren’t aware they can “vote” for new ideas, that there are a multitude of official blogs to leave comments at, etc. Technology is allowing the town hall interactive government of the past to scale, it will be government’s role, in part, to ensure average citizens (vs just special interest groups) know about these new ways to interact and help influence their government.

  4. Steve –

    I, of all people, certainly think that government should do a better job of communicating with citizens. But I think that’s a separate topic than explaining to people about what Gov 2.0 is. I think the better communication (hopefully) comes out of the Gov 2.0 process.

    If Deloitte wanted to increase its mindshare over Booz Allen (for example) in the government space, maybe the CEO starts something called Deloitte 2.0 and puts Bill Eggers in charge of leading a team of creative individuals to innovate how Deloitte communicates with the public inside the Beltway. That doesn’t mean that the public should know what Deloitte 2.0 actually is; it means they hopefully would see the fruits of its labors.

  5. While you’re not in full agreement, I think the direction you’re all heading is solid – better government requires feedback and exchange between service providers (civil servants) and service recipients (citizens). Getting the word out (marketing, PR, outreach, awareness) can be done in many ways. Choose your paradigm. In the end, there’s a need to zero in on the most effective approach –

    I also agree that talking among Silicon Valley or DC insiders on topics like open source doesn’t advance the engagement cause –

    If Federal Agencies are able to truly achieve open government (per the OGD, with real engagement, further program evolution and increasingly valuable content), wouldn’t that start educating citizens and agencies alike? Seems OGD will fail unless 2-way communication, with meaningful engagement, becomes real.

    In terms of the pace being slow, culture change will certainly have a gating effect there –

    But I think there’s upside in citizens realizing they have a new voice and new access. It’s at the heart of “Participation”. You guys are all thought leaders in this space. Do you support OGD as a means to start a dialog with agencies and citizenry on what Gov 2.0 can and should be?

  6. Sure, people may not need to know that a few “insiders” are working on Gov 2.0. But Steve and Luke nail it when they talk about the responsibility of gov in helping people be aware of and manage this change. Otherwise, why are we doing this?

    Gov 2.0 as a term is shorthand for folks working in this space (and the term is not without it’s detractors among the “in” crowd). But transparency is one of the basic tenets of Gov 2.0. It’s not very transparent to speak in a special secret language. In fact, it’s exclusionary–and not just for the public, but for folks in government.

    From the inside and trying to make the changes gives me a different perspective. Beyond the echo chamber of conferences, UStreams, Twitter, blogs, there are thousands of people in government agencies trying to figure out what transparency means, how participation is changing, and asking “aren’t we already collaborating?” These are good, smart people tasked with making the Gov2.0 changes in their agencies who drop their eyes and apologize because, “I don’t use [insert tool du jour], I don’t get this stuff.”

    The public is not just people outside of government, but the hundreds of thousands of people inside government.

    The tent needs to be bigger if we are to succeed. And language is a critical tool to make it so.

  7. Great comments, but let’s be realistic. Most citizens are not on Twitter and have never heard of Gov 2.0.

    A few may have heard of the Open Government Directive (OGD), and are wondering how it differs from the 1990’s Reinventing Government effort under Clinton and Gore.

    Many Agencies were caught off-guard by OGD too, except some innovators at DOT, DOL, State, EPA, TSA, DoD, where thoughts on emergent public communication using “new media” have been percolating (or in the case of TSA & EPA, working) during and before 2009.

    We need to be thinking “outside the Beltway”.

  8. “The tent needs to be bigger if we are to succeed.” – love that quote from Gwynne.

    And, I think we are expanding that tent. There are definitely a LOT more people discussing this notion of Gov 2.0 both externally and even internally here at Booz Allen. The #gov20 community is growing and splintering into smaller communities, and it’s going to continue to do so. I think the biggest thing that I’ve seen come out of this conversation is the need to also be patient – there’s no elapsed time on Luke’s chart above, but I would wager that it takes years to move down that scale and we’re only about 1/3 of the way through it. The tent not only has to be bigger – we also need the time and the resources to continue to get it built.

    And this patience will be sorely needed if we’re going to have to wait for Deloitte to increase their mindshare over Booz Allen because that might take years :)

  9. What I like about the chart, Luke, is that it provides a visual representation for what I have been thinking and saying lately – that we are very much on the front end of this entire “Gov 2.0” movement. We really are at the chasm point and our job right now, as Gwynne points out, is to start asking a lot more questions of both citizens and our colleagues.

    For me, the citizen question is:

    “How does any of this stuff impact my mom and dad in Davenport, IA?”

    I answer this question by urging us to think about everything we’re doing as leading to a “hyper-local” application. How can we help the average citizen – not particularly active, but concerned about issues in their backyard – to interpret and act upon the datasets that agencies are releasing?

    Within agencies, the equivalent question seems to be:

    “What does any of this mean for the hard-working public servant who’s not particularly interested in innovation, but wants to be a good steward of our tax dollars?”

    Answer: I don’t know. But I think we’re hearing voices in places like GovLoop where government personnel at every level – and not just the leaders of this movement anymore – are weighing in on forums and blogs…and it will take some time to discern the path forward together.

    I am much more hopeful than Andrea DiMaio who said today that we may be moving into a “trough of disillusionment” (see Rather, I am confident we are building a bridge across the chasm. But as the graphic reveals, that bridge is being built uphill – no easy task!

    Let’s remain patient, but persistent…


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