Trying to attract new people into government is an ongoing problem. The perception is that government is boring, bureaucratic and offers little room for innovation or creativity. I would argue the opposite, government workers are true innovators. Unlike the private sector, government workers are mandated by the very nature of their roles to be creative and to grow in ways they are not given the chance to in the private sector.
Government workers are under an incredible level of scrutiny from all directions, ranging from elected officials to the public, to special interest groups, and internal and external auditors. Every action, every penny spent and every decision must be justified, backed up and defended before, during and after a project. Transparency is demanded and accountability is expected and although we are not there to make a profit, every member of the public is a shareholder and every elected official is a boss.
Whenever this starts to get me down I think of a quote from Armageddon the 1998 (yes, I’m dating myself here!) movie starring Bruce Willis. Steve Buscemi, playing Rockhound, is sat in a rocket ready to be blasted into space to save the world and he says:
“You know we’re sitting on four million pounds of fuel, one nuclear weapon and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder. Makes you feel good, doesn’t it?”
You know what – the rocket worked, the plan worked and the world was saved – despite it being the lowest bidder! OK, so this is not the most realistic of scenarios, but the premise that we can achieve great things despite the challenges and parameters we face is realistic and something government workers do every day.
Public expectations are changing and government is expected to keep up with the desire for every tool and piece of information to be available 24 hours a day, in multiple formats when, where and how the citizen wants to interact with us. It is only with the talent of true innovators and highly creative thinkers can we be successful, and as leaders in government, it is our job to attract those people and challenge them enough to want to stay.
Showing the innovative and creative nature of government is one way of doing that – especially in terms of technology. Government is not automatically thought of when discussing technological advances yet it’s hard to think of any aspect of government that does not utilize some type of technology. Relating this to the everyday technological advancements and tools can help change the perception of careers in government.
Take for example the Pokémon craze that swept the world at the end of last year. How does that relate to what we do in government? Augmented reality: The technology that allowed us to see and capture Pokémon can be used to visually display any type of information via your mobile device. Granted, utility lines and building permits are not as much fun but are an excellent example of how augmented reality is used to provide quick and accurate visual information in the field for government workers.
Another example is virtual reality: It’s not just for gamers but has real world applications. Virtual reality is being used by companies working in the outreach of the National Flood Insurance Program to immerse people in what a flood building would be like to try and educate and them on what to expect. The ultimate aim is to encourage them to purchase adequate flood insurance and spread and minimize the risk placed on this federal program.
Drone technology is becoming common place in the building inspection world. It is far quicker, cheaper and has less risk to fly a drone to the top of a high rise building to check a roof or window installation than it is to send an inspector.
Think about using apps to upload code compliance requests, share your opinions with your community, gain community support for your own ideas, report when your garbage hasn’t been picked up. How about smart technology used to read utility meters without the need to send out people to actually take a manual reading. The adaptations and potential are endless and selling government as a career using examples such as can show how exciting government work can be. Think of the difference in how these two jobs sound:
“Be a building inspector and go out on job sites and inspect buildings for compliance with building regulations every day” OR “Fly drones all day”
I know which one I would rather do and this is the message we need to get out. Working in government demands that we are incredibly innovative and creative, we must develop solutions where the public don’t even know there are problems, we must bridge the technological gap between the public sector and the private sector so our citizens don’t know there is a difference. We must keep up with technology, keep up with demands, do it with little or no funding and do it with a smile on our faces. To me this is what makes working in government one of the most challenging, rewarding and creative careers I could have chosen.