Notes from National League of Cities: How To Inject Innovation into Local Government

Another day at the National League of Cities Congress and Exposition, another opportunity for insight. Right now, I'm in a workshop being led by Patrick Ibarra entitled "How To Inject Innovation into Local Government." Ibarra is the Co-Founder and Partner of The Mejorando Group based in Glendale, Arizona.

Here are some of my notes from the session:

Let's Talk About Language
- Current language gets in the way of innovation
- We need new vocabulary in government, like passion, imagination, pride, innovation, results, explore, think different, 100 things 1% better, entrepreneurship
- How do we leap across the chasm between order and chaos?
- Government needs to create more room for chaos.

What Is Innovative Nowadays?
- Elvis, jet travel, TV remote control, email? They all were at one time! Now integrated into culture.
- What's innovative now becomes commonplace eventually - how quickly will you embrace ultimate reality?
- There's a gap between citizen expectations and workforce capabilities - the greater the gap, the greater the chance for disappointment...yet the first thing we cut is training to develop our people

Rethink Competition
- If you do things the way everybody else does them, why do you think you're going to do any better?
- Who are you borrowing from? Other gov only or anyone doing it awesome anywhere?
- Need to ask: who are competitors to city services? Other government jurisdictions, universities, non-profits. Know them...then research, analyze and learn from them!
- What are the ways (a) you and (b) these other providers can improve services and programs?

Reconnect With Customers
- Revisit the idea that conceived your organization and determine how it's evolving.
- Survey less, listen more.
- Find it, fix it and follow up!
- Identify what makes your organization distinctive to your customers.
- How can your organization strengthen its brand and stay "hip"?
- Social media - what is your city doing?

Redesign Work
- What is the "cause" statement for your organization?
- How does your organization's standing in the talent market enhance its position in the service market?
- Recruitment, promotion and performance management are essential.
- What conditions are needed so great people can do great work?
- Great ad: "Adventurers Wanted!"

Recruit the Best
- Make sure your website includes photos of young people
- Send your best people to career fairs (not the people wanting out of the office!)
- You cannot wait for the phone to ring....go get 'em!
- Let people learn on the job - "the absence of mistakes does not constitute success."
- Social capital is all you have - it's really about trust...and it's fragile.

Innovation Equation
- Idea x Customer Value x Execution = Innovation
- Q: What's the difference between a pain killer and a vitamin? A: Proactive mindset.
- You're not trying to be the cover of the magazine; just get better every day.
- What's more difficult - going from 0 to 1 (start), 1 to 0 (stop) or 1 to 1,000 (expand)?

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