Institutionalizing Innovation and Leadership

By Robyn Undieme | July 9, 2015

A new trend is occurring all over the country as Innovation Offices are beginning to pop up within local City governments. What are Innovation Offices? Simply put, they're offices similar to the MAAP Office. They're focused on making data-driven decisions and implementing cost- saving measures within City government. Ultimately, they're intended to challenge the old ways of thinking in an effort to better meet citizens' needs and expectations.

While the word "innovation" has become a bit of a buzz word, I believe we as a City should strive to apply the principle of innovation toward implementing ideas that have never been tried here. The question is: how do we institutionalize innovation here within the City? I've studied this topic quite a bit and would like to share some of my personal insights.

First, I believe implementing innovation requires top-down, bottom-up, and side-to-side effort across the organization in a simultaneous manner. In other words, all levels of the organization from the Mayor and his Administration, to middle management and ground employees should prioritize, expect, and support the implementation of innovative ideas from each and every level. I don't believe it's the responsibility of just one level of the organization to initiate or prioritize this effort.

A government employee from the State of Michigan recently said that leadership is personal; it's not organizational. Everyone is a leader and plays a part in shaping our organizational culture. Some may be negative leaders and some may be positive leaders. The question isn't if you are a leader; it's what kind of leader are you?

Now that I've established you're all leaders, what's next? It is ownership and follow-through. If we identify a problem, it's also our responsibility to offer or contribute our effort toward a solution. This in part also defines the type of leader you are at the City. Innovation and those I consider to be positive leaders must focus on solutions and not just stop with the problem. We're all naturals at finding flaws, but where we go from there either keeps us stuck or moves us forward. It's this reason why Idea Basecamp exists.

The MAAP Office has provided you a tool, such as Idea Basecamp, and ask for your advice on a solution to the problem. The State of Washington's slogan is appropriate in this instance, "Keep calm and fix what bugs you."

Lastly, we should be a forgiving culture. It's okay if you fail; just fail fast. New implementations aren't fail proof. And yes, sometimes failures can be costly, but remaining stagnant can also be costly which often leads to worse outcomes. Let's take risks together. The MAAP Office was initiated by Mayor Bartlett to partner with you and advocate/assist you in taking that risk. You're not alone; we're here at your beck and call.

I hope you'll reach out to us. Visit Idea Basecamp, access and complete the idea form and email it to MAAP@cityoftulsa.org. As always, you're invited to our monthly City Forum and Book Club to become acquainted with us on a more personal level and get to know other employees here within the City.