In one of the second breakout sessions today, a panel of presenters representing the Department of State, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Aviation Administration and the International Finance Corporation shared the tools that their respective agencies are using to drive innovation and smash information silos.
They have shared their technological tools and adaptations of social media networks to enhance the sharing of ideas across an organization. It is normally pretty easy to filter information up the chain of command, but these agencies have sought to improve their performance by sharing information across the organization chart rather than up the chart. The Department of State shared their multiple internal platforms modeled after networks used by the general public that include Corridor (LinkedIn), Diplopedia (Wikipedia) and their own internal search engine, modeled after Google with a more precise way to get the exact information that they need.
These agencies have promoted the idea that partnering with their internal crowd and groups, or internal crowdsourcing, will spur innovation. One particularly poignant idea shared by Kerry O’Connor from the Department of State from the work of the author Steven Johnson, was the idea of the ‘adjacent possible.’ She advocated for the removal of the phrase ‘thinking outside the box’ from innovation vocabulary. Instead, there is the idea that the ‘box’ is what is happening right here and right now, and that innovation operates right along the edge of that box. O’Connor therefore says that innovation can happen when you use the tools that you already have to operate along the edge of the box so that you can reach the innovation that is waiting right along the edges.
Overall, the panelists have promoted ways to cultivate environments where good ideas can spread. Relying on IT as the only innovator is too simplistic to be effective. Whether it be through technology or pushing innovative crowdsourcing techniques, once good ideas are free to spread, the agency will become more efficient and performance will improve.
The IT “solutions” in my Agency constantly fail because the implementation was done poorly and probably was insufficiently funded. Who rolls out Office 365 for better collaboration and doesn’t implement SharePoint? That would be us. That’s not doing “right” with “less.” We can’t collaborate with our State government partners because our firewalls are too thick.
Looking at our government as a one of your funders, they seem to have missed the shift from massing bodies to getting results. Doing more with less is about choosing the right goals and methods, as opposed to just working harder, which I find is the first response of the idealistic.
Does government continue to be the employer of last resort? Do government programs necessarily sap the economy, sap citizen participation, operate at a lower scale of excellence than volunteer and corporate programs?
Do we even take these into account when we are designing government activities?
I remember a President who had six key goals. He stayed on them in spite of media pressure, clientitis, and rice bowl issues. We prospered and became more aligned as a result.