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Exponential Planning: Helping Government Embrace the Future

Government must consider many new risks and factors in planning given rapidly changing technology and constituent behavior.

NEW ORLEANS — Prior to the reception honoring winners of this year’s Best of the Web and Digital Government Achievement Awards, members of the public and private sectors gathered for a workshop to learn about new research from the Center for Digital Government (CDG) on the exponential future — government organizations that harness exponential technologies, such as scalable and connected devices, and models of work, like holacracy.

Part of this exponential future concept includes planning. 
“The way we plan projects in government needs to change,” said Dustin Haisler, chief innovation officer for e.Republic, the parent company of both CDG and Government Technology. “There are material weaknesses in the way we plan in government today.”
Government must consider many new risks and factors in planning, he said, given rapidly changing technology and constituent behavior. And this applies to everything, from a capital project to a piece of land. 
And the way to change this, Haisler said, will be to incorporate exponential planning, which isn’t a new way of planning — it’s an overlay on traditional planning processes. Exponential planning is designed to evaluate future trends and risks that will impact government projects and serve as a future target to plan projects in conjunction with.
In traditional planning, officials would analyze traffic patterns, anticipate future growth and assess right-of-way availability to create a series of recommendations on capital improvements, Haisler said, and then used Austin, Texas’ MoPac Expressway as an example of how to incorporate exponential planning in a project. 
The traditional items are still important, but in planning for modifications to ease traffic and capacity along the expressway (which Haisler said is a faster walk than drive), a first step would be to map the adjacent impact areas — which are not physical impact areas. Think e-commerce, ride-sharing, self-driving cars and individual behavior. 
Step two, he said, is to identify corresponding macro trends. For e-commerce, that’s thinking about how physical retailers are evolving and becoming digital retailers while some traditionally online retailers are opening physical (but digital) stores, like Apple; for ride-sharing, it means that fewer cars may be on the road in five to 10 years.
The third step is to identify potential impacts, which for e-commerce is that individual behavior has forced companies to also adapt their models and become digital companies. Additionally, Haisler said, the rise of same-day shipping has minimized the amount that people drive to physical places. It’s also clear, given that Uber has already rolled out its first self-driving taxi, that such vehicles are the way of the future and are likely closer to reality than decades away.
Step four: Where applicable, create prediction statements based on steps one through three, such as, “Ride-sharing will reduce vehicles on the road 10 percent in the next four years.”
The final step is to incorporate all of this into your overall plan and details in conjunction with key project milestones, which Haisler said helps to maintain a big-picture view of key variables that may impact overall project planning. 
And this is certainly not the last the public sector will hear of exponential future or exponential planning — CDG’s research will result in a playbook to help governments better plan and ultimately better execute their projects. 
“With that,” Haisler said, “you will become exponential planning ninjas.”