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Live Blogging the 2011 Next Generation of Government Summit: Morning Keynote

10:00 a.m. And Nick is done. A rep from Aetna, a NextGen sponsor, is thanking everyone for being here and encouraging us to make the most of the next two days. He hopes lots more people will come next year after hearing from this year’s attendees how awesome the summit was.

Now we’re hearing from Fred Dust from IDEO.

Fred: IDEO is an innovation and design company. I want to talk about how you can use these methodologies and apply them to the work you do.

Usually we start working with organizations that are broken. We work with governments because they’re at a critical moment, “a moment of really pivotal change.” And you’re at the cusp of it.

We also work with University of Phoenix, which is a fascinating client. They’re coming up with a whole new model of education. These adult learners say they don’t like to read, for example. But they love stuff like Twilight. How can we learn from that? We should go deep to understand why things happen, not just assume.

Designers make connections and leaps. They’re also optimistic and hopeful. We have to be. Our job is to make new things. That requires you to be able to envision the future.

So how do we use these designer qualities to work with government? And how can you, as well?

Three things to try:

1. Make simplicity a discipline. Designers are good at taking complex things and making them simple. If you can do that, people will listen to you. (Example: A doctor in Brooklyn started doing house calls and letting people book their appointments themselves on his Google calendar. Soon he had venture capital and now he’s a rich, successful consultant. He broke through a complicated system and found a way to make it simple.)

2. Make ideas tangible. Act them out, if need be. Draw them up. Don’t be abstract. (Example: People believe the Peruvian government is completely corrupt. How do you get them to engage? Try your ideas out. Put them into action and see if they actually work. Give people “fix this” stickers and let them tell you what needs to be done.)

3. Be Brave. Risk is a requirement. People need to be willing to speak up. This goes for the public and private sector. At IDEO, we have brainstorming rules to allow innovation to happen. (Stay focused on the topic. One conversation at a time. Defer judgment. Etc.) Introduce them and stick to them. Also, focus on asking questions. Answers often have assumptions embedded into them that may not still be true.

9:50 a.m. Nick is now doing a Q and A with the audience.

“In my experience, senior management get it. … The real challenge is in middle management.”

They actually have a hard job. Everyone’s asking for change. Everyone wants to work from home or at an office that looks like a startup. And that’s not possible at a large organization. All these demands are falling to middle management. From the bottom and the top.

That middle layer isn’t dis-empowered. You empower yourself. Middle management needs to step up their game. Want to inspire your boss? Show him a TED video.

9:40 a.m. Now let’s move on to being virtuous.

To get things done, you need to create pressure at three levels: bottom-up pressure by talking to your boss. Lateral pressure by getting his or her colleague talk to your boss. And the threat of top-down pressure by suggesting it will go higher than your boss.

Be tenacious. Not everyone can get their way. Spend your time identifying the roadblocks and figure out ways around them. Have your friends or people in another department look at your project and beat it up, so you know what criticisms are coming.

Small victories lead to large victories. It buys you creative license and for those you affiliate with. So dream big, but work backwards to get there.

Relish your victories privately. “Don’t let the need for recognition overshadow” what you got done. “Avoid being proprietary. Share profusely. It’s the gift economy, stupid.”

Bend the rules sometimes. “You need to be able to look yourself in the mirror at the end if the day.” Don’t be a yes-man or yes-woman. Stand for something and be willing to walk away from a project or organization if need be. But don’t be vindictive. When you do bend the rules, be ready to justify it.

Your relationships and reputation are everything.

Check Nick out at http://about.me/nickcharney

9:30 a.m. Nick Charney came up with a framework he calls “scheming virtuously.”

Nick: First, let’s look at how to scheme.

Start within your team. Look for the people who will get behind you.

Scheme with people you don’t know. Thinking outside the box means you have to look outside your comfort zone and go where the creative people are. That means talking to people outside your cubicle, outside your immediate office or department.

Scheme with new arrivals — they’re likely to be blunt. They’ll open doors for you. Your job is to walk through them.

You need to scheme with the seasoned vets as well. Don’t discount them. Don’t wait for them to retire. The good ones are good listeners and they focus on how to make things happen.

Do it over coffee or a beer.

Scheme with new tools. Don’t train for where you are, train for where you want to be. Try new things. Keep up with new technologies (including “all the clunky tools inside your organization and all the really cool ones outside of it”).

Scheme quickly and scheme safely.

What we’re lacking mroe than anything else is trust. We send cover-your-ass emails — the implication is, You’re not going to do what you said you would and I have to be able to prove it. “We don’t change the culture. We put up Dilbert comics on our cubicles.” We can do better than that.

Whatever you’re working on, “keep it low-key until you’re ready for it to face scrutiny.”

Scheme opportunistically. Connect what you’re working on to departmental priorities. Senior leadership eats that stuff up. Think about how you’re going to mitigate the risks/criticisms they bring up. It isn’t easy. You have to have a real plan.

9:10 a.m. Hey all! I’m stoked to be here at NextGen 2011, where I’ll be live blogging throughout the next two days. Follow me here and/or the Twitter hash tag #NGGS11 for the inside scoop.

Dave Uejio, president, of YGL and Steve Ressler, president of GovLoop, are welcoming the crowd.

Dave: Why are we here? Because you are the future of government. Actually, many of you are the present of government, but you are also our future leaders. To the extent that people are disillusioned with government, it’s because… they don’t know you. Let’s change that.

We want you to leave this place:

1. a better public servant
2. feeling like you’re part of the government family
3. inspired

Steve made a Charlie Sheen reference and is now thanking our partners.

Be sure to check out the GovLoop New Hire Guide.

Now Steve is introducing one of our morning keynoters, Nicholas Charney. “This guy over here has a purple shirt on. And he’ll be speaking to you for twenty minutes.”

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