Alliance for Innovation hosted its annual Transforming Local Government conference and government innovators flocked to Phoenix to talk about the best ways to serve citizens, support innovative cultures and transform the experience. Yes, I said government innovators and no, it’s not an oxymoron. It's a moral imperative.
If you think about it, government is the largest employer in the US and the largest service provider. Government is about you. It’s about me. It’s about all of us. It has the ability to influence how we live every aspect of our lives, from the cup of water that brews our morning coffee, to the road we are driving to work on. It's the safety of the building we work in and the lunch we eat. In short, it's everywhere. And it's critical that we support innovative cultures that delivery service in new ways to our citizens. Better. Faster. Cheaper. Brighter.
The great news is there are hundreds of local leaders here to exchange and excite each other about the possible. As this group of local civil servants gathers to see best practices and share ideas, some common themes have emerged from the 2015 conference:
- Innovation is about all of us. Many of the speakers and presenters and leaders in the room agree that innovation is a power in all of us. Some of us have it more close to the surface than others, but it is possible to unlock this creative potential in each of us.
- Diversity is critical to high-powered innovation. Diversity is a crisis in America. Women, minorities, young professionals, religious beliefs...diversity creates balance in perspective as we generate new ideas and we are out of balance as a nation. Degrees earned and leadership roles do not mirror each other. Wages, success, happiness, poverty, etc. are all out of alignment and disproportional. The good news is you can acquire diversity even if you are a homogenous "sea of the same" through social experiences that connect us to people. Our differences should be celebrated, not scorned and increasing our diversity will improve the way we deliver services to the public.
- Pilot everything. Experiments are king. Yes, I've been saying this for a while, and no matter whether you call it a pilot or an experiment, it's tinkering and trying new concepts. Giving yourself permission to fail--and ultimately permission to succeed. Make it small and give it a try.
- One-size fits all does not exist. The conference is rich with "best practices" and case studies, but ultimately it’s about adapting the ideas to meet your community's need. The local climate (political, social, weather, rural or urban, geographic) all play a big role in finding the best solutions. So while you can learn lessons of how great people are doing great things across this country, you must adapt what you see in order to meet your citizens' needs. Adapt or die. Ok, that was a little over the top, but you get the idea.
- Don't be afraid of failure. This is another one of those easy-to-say, but hard-to-do things. We all have some built in fear of failure, but finding a way to overcome or ignore that fear is critical to driving big successes. Every single story here has an element of risk, failure, resistance, fear and triumph in it. To be the most effective you can be, you must find a way to unleash your power and being afraid of failure holds you back.
As the conference gears up or winds down (depending on your point of view), these lessons permeate the speakers points, infect every room and conversation and embed themselves as immutable lessons in the nature of today's successful government innovation.
And for me, it is refreshing to know so many great people are charting that path together--to help us all lead better lives. Team Us.
This piece originally appeared on Nick's LinkedIn page. To see updates on innovation, leadership and life's lessons, connect with Nick.