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Is There A Secret Sauce To Innovation?

What is the recipe for a perfect innovator or an innovative city? One dash idea. Two cups execution? Three cups metrics? Four cups risk?

Creating the perfect recipe for innovation might be impossible. But the City of Denver has been working hard to create a culture of innovation and execution. Frank Daidone is the Chief Information Officer in Denver, and he told me during GovLoop’s State and Local Spotlight interview that now more than ever the governments needs to innovation because the pace of change is so quick.

“I think innovation is necessary because of the pace at which everything changes. Take Moore’s Law into consideration, you have exponential growth with technology doubling every 18 months, back in the 90s hardware didn’t really pick up very quickly. Software wasn’t there either. Today, the amount of change that takes place is so rapid, there needs to actually be focused on it. Having someone focused on innovation is incredibly important otherwise you simply can’t keep up,” said Daidone.

Does the pace of change oppose government’s natural pace?

I came out of the private sector, and there is this idea that you are far more nimble in the private sector, but now that I have seen both sides, I tend to disagree. If you have a strong strategic and tactical plan, it really shouldn’t slow you down, because you are trying to think ahead. I haven’t had any of those issue to date. Maybe it is just good luck, maybe it is because the economy has gotten a lot better over the last couple of years, but there are challenges in the private sector too. I think the idea that the government moves so slow is a misconception,” said Daidone.

How do you bake in innovation?

  • “Innovation comes down to culture. My responsibility is to create a culture of empowerment where they all feel like they can share their ideas, they can speak honestly and openly. Are we going to use all the ideas? No, but you have to create that environment where they feel like they can pose ideas.”
  • “You need a very strong set of processes. Change governs our world and you need processes in place to mitigate risk so you are not constantly fighting fires.”
  • “You have to allow your people the time and freedom to innovate.”

Smart Failures?

“What we are looking for is execution. Everyone has great ideas, the guy standing on the side of the road holding a cardboard sign probably has a bunch of great ideas, but can he execute? Can we execute? The most important part of innovation is not the ideas, there are plenty of ideas, but can you execute?” said Daidone.

How do you measure success?

“I go back to the strategic and tactical plan. You build a roadmap. You get feedback from customers. You bring in auditors to gauge your progress. It is not that idea of hey look we implemented this bright new shiny thing, that’s not in my mind what innovation is about, that is the byproduct, what we are chasing is being as close to perfect as we can possibly be,” said Daidone.

How does agility factor in?

“Agility is everything. We are living in a world of shifting priorities,” said Daidone.

Example of Innovation: “The most innovative thing we have done recently, is our online checkbook. We took our financials and put them out in on a checkbook application to increase transparency between government and its citizens. That went out in March and is a perfect example of being nimble, it was a very short turn around, we built it in about 8 weeks. We have this culture where everyone feels like they can take ownership. It was probably the greatest example of teamwork I have ever seen, the individuals when we were getting ready to transition to go live, we asked, ‘who is going to be supporting this thing tonight?’ They all sort of looked at me confused and said, ‘We all are!’ It was a great moment,” said Daidone.

You can find all of GovLoop’s State and Local Spotlight interviews under keyword “emily’s corner.”

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