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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Don't be a mule

My father-in-law, John, is 88 years old and is a retired farmer from eastern North Carolina.

When he returned to the farm after World War II, they were still using mules to work the land. As he took over management of the operation from his father, he made the decision to begin converting to tractors.

As a businessman, he didn't have a choice but to make that change. The leap in productivity from one man and team of mules to one man and a tractor was huge in terms of acres cultivated per man.

Today, it is hard to imagine that farming was done any other way, but that didn't make the transition any easier.

During a visit this weekend, I asked him how hard was it for the men who worked with him to make the switch.

Some men took to the tractors quickly, but "some were just scared to death," he said.

I think many people today can related to those mule-drivers.

Talk about change is very fashionable with the Obama administration coming in, but I think it is real and it something that has been building for several years.

I know my industry, the media, is going through a sea-change. How I do my job today is very different than how I did it just three years ago, much less 24 years ago when I started my career. I remember how excited we were when we got a fax machine for the newsroom. Now, I send just a few faxes a year, and I can't recall the last time I got one that was of any importance.

The way government operates is changing rapidly. The Obama victory is just one example of the power of collaboration and communications tools. I think we should expect a more open government, particularly as leaders reach out to constituents and stakeholders in broader ways to gather feedback and ask advice as well as communicate new policies and initiatives.

I don't think it is going to be Nirvana. Mistakes are going to happen. There will be embarrassments.

But changes are going to happen regardless. And maybe, just maybe, our government will be the better for it.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Dec 15, 2008 at 9:55 AM

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