Gov 2.0, News, Public Participation

Lean Lessons for Local Gov

You might not think that local governments are primed to be hotbeds of innovation. Then again, you may not yet have heard of Manor, TX, a little town that’s repeatedly garnered attention from the White House for its innovative ways. And you may not have heard entrepreneur-turned-scholar Vivek Wadhwa give one of his frank talks about the demographics of startup founders: 40, educated but not Ivy League, experienced.
Kind of sounds like an average government employee.
And don’t expect to get sympathy from Wadhwa regarding the lack of monetary incentives (bonuses) for innovation in government. Wadhwa points out that fledgling entrepreneurs generally work outrageous hours for little or no pay, motivated more by a dream for a better world than the short chances of financial success.
Shouldn’t public servants have some of that same sort of motivation?
Wadhwa spoke to more than 50 San Francisco employees Monday in the first of the Department of Technology’s “Innovation @ Work” lunchtime talks. Most of the attendees heard about the event through an e-mail to anyone who participated in a recent electronic suggestion box exercise on fixing the City’s budget woes.
Joining Wadhwa was Eric Ries, startup vetran and adviser, who advocates the “lean” model of getting a good idea off the ground, where the unit of progress is in lessons learned about meeting customer needs.
“Stop building stuff nobody wants,” Ries said. He also put the burden of successful innovation in government on the shoulders of managers. “Entrepreneurship is management,” he said.
Whether veteran public IT managers went back to their offices today with dreams of remaking their legacy systems in the lean model or not, Ries, a San Francisco resident, and Wadhwa stressed that the group was unusual in that San Francisco is embracing the need for critical change.
The US is in serious trouble,” Wadhwa said. “While we were sleeping, the world changed. … If you started to rebuild your systems, you would become the innovator.”
 
Postscript: I heard a bit of tittering when Vivek Wadhwa asked how many of us were tweeting from the event (I know of two). Why Twitter? Direct communication with the speakers. Cross-continental thought pollination. Notes for this blog post.

Onward and upward.

~ Adriel Hampton

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