Henderson County Building Permits
Note: Government Technology Magazine mapped jurisdictions that have created the position of Chief Innovation Officer.

Introduction

In the book “Innovation as Usual,” the authors demonstrate that the possibility to innovate is everywhere. Each of us have the chance to innovate each day: drive a new route to work, add a new column on a spreadsheet, hold a meeting with a new format, test a different sales pitch, exercise over lunch instead of after work, or find a new digital tool. The decision to deviate from the norm opens up new possibilities and better strategies, but also the possibility of failure.

Innovation in government is possible too. Better routes for government services, introduction of technology to speed service, and elimination of programs that are not cost effective are examples of government innovation. Each holds the potential for better service at a reduced cost, but also the possibility of failure.

Government budgets remain tight, but as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said, “I think frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out.”

Government Innovation

And governments are inventing their way out of “tight boxes.” The former mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, funds innovation in cities through Bloomberg Philanthropies Government Innovation. Their What Works Cities initiative is a three-year, $42 million effort to support mayors and local leaders in 100 mid-sized U.S. cities with technical assistance, access to expertise, and peer-to-peer learning opportunities. While Henderson may fall outside the 100 mid-size city parameter, the lessons are accessible to all.

The Harvard Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation supports innovation as well. Their annual Innovations in American Government Awards could be mined by future political candidates for ideas that could be reproduced here in Henderson.

For those willing to look outside of the country for solutions, the OECD Public Sector Innovation website could also provide some ideas.

Chief Innovation Officers

While there is a lot of information on innovation, some states and local governments have taken the additional step of establishing a formal position entitled “Chief Innovation Officer” or CINO. A CINO “show[s] organizations how to keep pace by integrating new ideas into an organization’s existing processes and infrastructure, most often through the use of modern technology.” While the map above is from 2014, it shows different jurisidictions that have established the position like Louisville.

Louisville’s Chief of Civic Innovation, Grace Simrall, is a data scientist who founded iGlass Analytics. In response to an email, she was kind enough to forward a copy of a job description for a CINO.

Resources

Sample Job Description for Chief Innovation Officer

ICMA Innovations and Emerging Practices in Local Government Survey 2016 (60% of local governments do not collect data on the quality of service provided!)

Questions

Do you see value in new approaches and strategies?

Would you support the establishment of such a position, or partial position, in local government?

Do you recognize that innovation sometimes fails?

Would you support political candidates in 2018 that propose new ideas for Henderson?

Summary

Henderson is finding itself in an ever tighter fitting box and it’s time to invent our way out. Government innovation can bring new efficiencies for those communities with the courage to try. Proposing a new position or having an existing employee responsible for innovation could create a community dialogue on the role and value of innovation in Henderson. No one person could be responsible for innovation, but he or she could foster an institutional culture where creative ideas are rewarded and encouraged. Innovation could help Henderson out of a box and help it regain its swagger.