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Why Tech Leaders Should Take a Broader View of Innovation

If it’s true that original ideas are increasingly scarce, innovation may just mean adapting proven solutions to new challenges. Avoid paralysis by prioritizing modernization plans according to available data.

How many of us are still getting used to writing 2022? The beginning half of this year has flown by. With so many internal and external social, political and industry-specific challenges on the horizon, how do you begin to prioritize your to-do list?

The reality is that you must continue to do your homework. Effective short-term and long-term planning will go a long way toward achieving your initiatives. This is becoming even more imperative as the details of the federal funding are released. Having shovel-ready projects seems to be the best way to receive a larger part of this funding. Last month we wrote about strategic planning, but what does that mean? It means that you need to put pen to paper and have actionable plans and projects in place. This process shouldn’t be limited to standard operational planning; this process must include a strong focus on innovation and modernization.

Let’s start by looking at innovation. Innovation has become a buzzword that may or may not include technology. It can mean resolving a long-standing issue or applying an existing process to a current issue. We subscribe to the premise of the book Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. The premise of the book is that at our current stage of technology and society, there are no truly original ideas. We find solutions to issues that currently exist and can apply that thinking to new and different situations. We don’t often think of this as innovation but it is.

Another key to innovation and creativity is the combination of new ideas and focus. Kleon makes this important point: “In an age of information overload and abundance, the focus is important. Choose what you want to leave out of your key work. Nothing is more paralyzing than the idea of limitless possibilities. The best way to get over creative block is to simply place some constraints on yourself.” It is essential to not just have innovative ideas but to drive them toward results.

We are at the crossroads of technology, innovation and creativity as we strive to build the technology strategic plan that looks forward but delivers along the way. That is the largest problem with innovation in government. How do you prioritize what you need to do versus what you would like to do? By having these shovel-ready projects, you can begin to take true advantage of incoming funding as details are released while maintaining an eye on the future.

Modernization has evolved into its own challenge just as innovation has. What does it mean to your organization? What does it mean to your constituents? Those answers are not one-size-fits-all. Data must be at the core of the decision-making process when deciding which constituent services will be prioritized for modernization. By taking a data-driven approach, you may find that the same approach in resolving one pain point can be changed slightly to resolve another.

Now more than ever, the Center for Digital Government (CDG) is focused on better understanding these challenges. Continue to participate in our events and surveys to share accomplishments, successes and challenges. As you read this, we are accepting submissions for the Digital Counties Survey and the Digital States Survey. Government Experience will launch very soon, and the Digital Cities Survey is set to launch this summer. The CDG will also have office hours each Friday to talk about issues, give guidance about surveys or whatever everyone needs. The office hours link can be found in our Digital States Survey FAQ.

Please take advantage of opportunities to engage with the CDG on thought leadership and best practices. CDG events will be live in 2022 with a mix of virtual events to help round out the schedule. Digital Communities Virtual Workgroups will commence again this month and the Large City/County CIO Summit is coming to New Orleans in April. Digital States live events and summits are also getting ready to launch. The Digital Government Summits and IT Leadership Forums will also begin soon, so get ready to engage again live! Check out our events page for more details.