Idea to retire: Leaders can’t take risks or experiment

David Bray at TechTank: “Technology is rapidly changing our world. Traditionally, a nation’s physical borders could mark the beginning of their sovereign space, but in the early to mid-20th century airplanes challenged this notion. Later on, space-based satellites began flying in space above all nations. By the early 21st century, smartphone technologies costing $100 or so gave individuals computational capabilities that dwarfed the multi-million dollar computers operated by large nation-states just three decades earlier.

In this period of exponential change, all of us across the public sector must work together, enabling more inclusive work across government workers, citizen-led contributions, and public-private partnerships. Institutions must empower positive change agents on the inside of public service to pioneer new ways of delivering superior results. Institutions must also open their data for greater public interaction, citizen-led remixing, and discussions.

All together, these actions will transform public service to truly be “We the (mobile, data-enabled, collaborative) People” working to improve our world. These actions all begin creating creative spaces that allow public service professionals the opportunities to experiment and explore new ways of delivering superior results to the public.

21st Century Reality #1: Public service must include workspaces for those who want to experiment and explore new ways of delivering results.

The world we face now is dramatically different then the world of 50, 100, or 200 years ago. More technological change is expected to occur in the next five years than the last 15 years combined. Advances in technology have blurred what traditionally was considered government, and consequentially we must experiment and explore new ways of delivering results.

21st Century Reality #2: Public service agencies need, within reason, to be allowed to have things fail, and be allowed to take risks.

The words “expertise” and “experiments” have the same etymological root, which is “exper,” meaning “out of danger.” Whereas the motto in Silicon Valley and other innovation hubs around the world might be “fail fast and fail often,” such a model is not going to work for public service, where certain endeavors absolutely must succeed and cannot waste taxpayer funds.

The only way public sector technologists will gain the expertise needed to respond to and take advantage of the digital disruptions occurring globally will be to do “dangerous experiments” as positive change agents akin to what entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley also do….

21st Century Reality #3: Public service cannot be done solely by government professionals in a top-down fashion.

With the communication capabilities provided by smartphones, social media, and freely available apps, individual members of the public can voluntarily access, analyze, remix, and choose to contribute data and insights to better inform public service. Recognizing this shift from top-down to bottom-up activities represents the first step to the resiliency of our legacy institutions….

Putting a cultural shift into practice

Senior executives need to shift from managing those who report to them to championing and creating spaces for creativity within their organizations. Within any organization, change agents should be able to approach an executive, pitch new ideas, bring data to support these ideas, and if a venture is approved move forward with speed to transform public service away from our legacy approaches….

The work of public service also can be done by public-private partnerships acting beyond their own corporate interests to benefit the nation and local communities. Historically the U.S. has lagged other nations, like Singapore or the U.K., in exploring new innovative forms of public-private partnerships. This could change by examining the pressing issues of the day and considering how the private sector might solve challenging issues, or complement the efforts of government professionals. This could include rotations of both government and private sector professionals as part of public-private partnerships to do public service that now might be done more collaboratively, effectively, and innovatively using alternative forms of organizational design and delivery.

If public service returns to first principles – namely, what “We the People” choose to do together – new forms of organizing, collaborating, incentivizing, and delivering results will emerge. Our exponential era requires such transformational partnerships for the future ahead….(More)”