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Future-Proofing North Dakota: A Growth Mindset Is Key

Chief Information Officer Shawn Riley says it is inevitable that technology will leapfrog state IT preparedness and explains why developing a culture focused on adaptation and evolution is critical.

North Dakota CIO Shawn Riley
David Kidd/Government Technology
Often when technology leaders talk about having a resilient IT organization, they mention modernizing infrastructure or moving systems to the cloud to both be able to recover from disaster and also stay ahead of as-yet-unknown emerging technologies. While North Dakota CIO Shawn Riley doesn’t disagree with any of that — he describes evaluating aspects like service management and working to improve them — he says what makes an agency truly future-proof is culture.

His attitude toward preparing North Dakota IT for what’s next is very similar to his take on emerging tech: “If you’re not looking ahead, you’re dying.”

At the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) annual meeting earlier this month in Nashville, Riley described four aspects of making sure your culture is future-proof: courage, curiosity, a growth mindset and humility. You have to ask questions, he said, and be willing to try new things.

A growth mindset is about asking, “What is possible? How might we? What if we?” Riley said. And humility is “an accurate reflection of the self. What are we good at? What are we not good at? And acknowledging that.”


Lauren Harrison is the managing editor for Government Technology magazine. She has a degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and 15 years’ experience in book and magazine publishing.