HBS Case Study by Mitchell Weiss and Maria Fernanda Miguel: “There were probably 30,000 public buses, minibuses, and vans in Mexico City. Though, in 2015, no one knew for certain since no comprehensive schedule existed. This was why el Laboratorio para la Ciudad (or LabCDMX) had spawned an effort to generate a map of the labyrinth system that provided an estimated 14 million rides a day. Gabriella Gómez-Mont, the Lab’s founder and director, had led her team in a project to crowd-source the routes from volunteer riders in what came to be known as Mapatón CDMX. After four pilots and a two-week “mapping marathon” later, she wondered exactly what to make of the lab’s fiftieth experiment? Was Mapatón successful?
LabCDMX and their crowdsourced bus mapping project provides the setting to explore risk taking and experimentation in public settings. The case is designed to focus students most acutely on questions of can government take more risk and how? This is a key question for public entreprenuers. In class, students are encouraged to think both about the obstacles for risk taking and the tactics that elected leaders and innovation champions can take to surmount those obstacles. Students consider whether experimentation is one of those potential skills and, if so, how best and rigorously those experiments must be run. How willing must government be to admit failure if experiments don’t pan out? What can give them that leeway? How, tactically, can governments run these kinds of experiments? Is using off-the-shelf technology for quick, but imperfect beta services a productive strategy for securing buy-in and for learning? The case is adaptable for exploring big company settings, too. Mexico City’s municipal government is a giant organization, with 300,000 public workers. What is the role of an innovation office and it’s handful of employees in that context? How does it gain credibility with the rest of the organization? How do experiments help – or hurt – in that effort?…(More)”.