How to inject innovation into local government

My second of two sessions today focused on the rather nebulous concepts of “innovation.” This is easy to say hard to do… What I particularly liked about this speaker, Patrick Ibarra, is he just said it like it is.

He talked about how poorly government markets itself and how organizations have coasters and climbers (be honest you know where you fall). I can honestly say that I have been both. He also cautioned us that city attorney’s job is to mitigate risk, and they can cause governments to be too conservative. He showed us how our job descriptions and requirements get us lifelong bureaucrats who excel and conforming and not innovation. He also hit on one of my sore spots, which is we are too often afraid to remove workers that need to be removed. Most of our civil servants, but I could name a few that seem to poison the work environment. From some of my private discussions with staff, they tend to agree.

He also gave some ideas as to how to interject innovation into an organization. Most of his ideas didn’t cost much money. I particularly would like to see more reliance on or summer workforce to get feedback, and got forbid improve our website. Also I really think that we need to dramatically increase the number of interns that we use. This both gives us exposure to potential future talent and also brings in new ideas.

One of my favorite comments that Patrick made is that it is right to have high expectations. In Rochester we should expect every street, park, and neighborhood is safe and desirable. We should never use the budget as an excuse to get less. Patrick also stated that happy workers do not necessarily equal productive workers. If there is a continuous emphasis on moral it gets old and maybe some of those people just need to move on. He also pointed out that high turnover can be good if departments can bring in great people that grow and move on. Also stability sometimes means the people that have no other options don’t move on.

We do have some innovative people in Rochester. I tend to see it more in our younger employees, but I will give a tip of the cap to Judy Scherr for her implementation of administrative fines (I’d give Terry Adkins a nod too, but I can’t with the conflict of interest that we are both Fighting Sioux fans). Also Richard Freese has done some incredible things with complete streets when politicians don’t get in the way.

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