BALTIMORE — Problem-solving involves a change in perspective. That was one of the main takeaways from the welcome and keynote speech at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ Midyear Conference in Baltimore Monday morning.
With record attendance for a midyear event at more than 610 registrants, representing 48 states, two territories, and Washington, D.C., the conference was kicked off by NASCIO President Bo Reese, CIO of Oklahoma, and included a message from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who praised those working in public-sector IT for their “work to make states better and government more accessible.”
And, of course, accomplishing that goal involves IT leaders coming together, bringing their different perspectives, and sharing best practices and lessons learned, the goal of the semiannual NASCIO event. Collaboration was central to keynote speaker Vinh Giang’s presentation, in which he used magic as a metaphor for how sharing ideas can generate creative problem-solving in ways that a single perspective cannot.
Giang, a communication teacher and magician, presented the idea that a magic trick, for the viewer, is simply a problem we can’t solve. But that’s because we’re only looking at the problem from one point of view. Changing that perspective, such as through collaboration, brings opportunity.
His definition of innovation similarly broke down a complex big idea into a simple statement: Innovation is composition. It is two different perspectives coming together for the first time. In other words, to have innovative ideas, you need to find the right person to collaborate with.
In that vein, Giang shared a quote from speaker Michael Karl that resonated with NASCIO attendees in the room: “You are the direct reflection of the top five people you spend time with.” Moreover, Giang said, “You can decide who you become in the future by deciding who you spend time with today.”
Ideally, over the next two days, state CIOs and other IT leaders will find time to make new connections, share new ideas and get the perspective they need to drive innovation and change in their agencies and throughout their states.
One central component of NASCIO events is the organization’s investment in raising funds for groups that work to build the tech world of the future. At the 2018 Midyear Conference, NASCIO Give Back is asking attendees to contribute to the Digital Harbor Foundation (DHF), a nonprofit program fostering tech education among Baltimore’s third- through 12th-graders.
Through year-round progressive programs, students with no prior tech experience improve their digital literacy through electronics and new technologies like 3-D printing, and what program director Shawn Grimes called “the combination of creativity and productivity.”
DHF reaches 1,400 youth each year, predominantly those from low-income families, and about three-quarters of participants are girls, and three-quarters are from minority communities. The program is also doing work with educators in 25 states to create similar programs throughout the country.
The funds raised at NASCIO Midyear will go toward DHF’s Summer Maker Camps, and the organization will match attendee donations up to $3,000.
Lauren Harrison is the managing editor for Government Technology magazine. She has a degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and more than 10 years’ experience in book and magazine publishing.