Baseball, Hot Dogs, Government & Community

It’s often said that sports are a metaphor for life & business – after the good natured ribbing I took from my CollabNet colleagues last night at the San Francisco Giants game, I’m even more convinced of this. You see, I’m a HUGE Giants baseball fan (and, as my wife would tell you, I also make her a hockey and football widow at times too. :)). This week, the CollabNet Sales and Services team is gathered at our corporate headquarters in South San Francisco/Brisbane for our annual sales kickoff, and the team all went out to the game for some ‘bonding’ time last night. Being the aforementioned huge Giants fan that I am, I showed up for the bus ride to the game in my jersey, hat, mock turtleneck & jacket. Since I didn’t know exactly where we were sitting, I also brought along my baseball glove (complete with batting gloves) – hey, it’s cold out there, and I didn’t want to get beaned by an errant foul ball. 🙂

Needless to say, my gear seemed to cause quite a stir with certain members of our sales team (I’m looking at you Ron Worley!), who took pleasure in making sure I received an appropriate amount of flak for the fact that I looked like I was ready to go down and spell a few of the Giants. I, of course, played along, but upon further reflection, I think the whole thing has some relevance to both Government 2.0 and Community. Specifically, the following principles:

Go Big or Go Home

This saying has been attributed to a number of people, but my former CEO at Sun, Scott McNealy, was the first person I came across who used this. Scott, an avowed ice hockey nut, knows that if you are passionate about a cause, sports team, or community, you need to go full tilt. Successful communities and government change efforts require leadership at all levels willing to make the big bets. In the case of Forge.mil, for example, this meant making the bet that we could affect cultural change through a common development platform and environment (based on CollabNet TeamForge), including the building of communities within a very traditional top-down culture. Despite the challenges we still face, the visibility and awards that Forge.mil continues to win are a validation of the concept, as well as a testament to the DISA leadership team, who continue to go ‘all in’ on this initiative.

No Fear of Failure or Ridicule

It’s easy to make a big bet in the face of a ‘sure thing’ – anyone can do that. But, whether it is being willing to rock the full Giants gear in the face of possible ridicule (as demonstrated in this photo), or build out a community like Forge.mil that fundamentally flies in the face of ‘business as usual’ at a large government agency, you have to be willing to fail or have elements of your community view you in a negative light. A lot of the work that Craig Newmark is doing at the Veteran’s Administration and with the Sunlight Foundation falls into this category (in my opinion at least – he might choose to disagree :)). There will always be ‘antibodies’ in your community or organization (or government), and staying the course in the face of what can sometimes be an onslaught of negativity is an important characteristic of community and government leaders alike.

Own Your Choices

An important part of any community or effort, which goes along with the previous two statements, is the concept of owning the bets and choices you make. Just as I don’t apologize for my rabid fandom for all things San Francisco Bay Area sports, as a community or government leader, you should be willing to own the choices you make. This is a critical component of trust, which I’ve talked about previously in this blog. A steady community leader (or any community member) who is willing to own their choices and/or opinions helps keep the fabric of the community strong. My biggest beef against anonymous comments in forums is that it flies in the face of this fundamental component of community trust. If you don’t believe strongly enough in a comment or thought to own it, how valuable is it to the overall good?

The Bottom Line

I think the best way to wrap up this missive is with a very famous quote from Gandhi (a much stronger community leader than just about anyone ever): “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

Gandhi understood that being true to yourself is one of the most important things you can do in life – I don’t know if he ever enjoyed cricket as much as I enjoy baseball, but being a passionate advocate for your favorite team (or cause) can help provide you with examples of how to be successful in your work life as well…

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