Michael Lopp, writer of Rands in Repose, has a great piece on innovation. He’s writing about innovation at Apple (and the possibility Apple has stopped innovating), but the words are applicable across fields:
You came to expect a certain amount of disruption around [Scott Forstall] because that’s how business was done at Apple – it was well-managed internal warfare. Innovation is not born out out of a committee; innovation is a fight. It’s messy, people die, but when the battle is over, something unimaginably significant has been achieved.
I think people forget this this sentiment, that innovation is difficult. I know I tend to forget it. Hell, I work in government, try innovating there.
You need to grab hold of a project, define everything, and then put it on your shoulders and don’t stop pushing until you get there. And most of the time it feels like it’s only you pushing forward. I feel like innovating should be easier, especially in government. Why is there so much push back? There are a lot of reasons why innovating isn’t easy. A lot of excuses why it doesn’t get done – a lot are valid, and a lot are CYA. How do we work together and actually innovate?
Before Sandy hit, I wrote briefly about Google’s use of a crisis map to help residents and responders.
Since then, we have seen actions across the social media boundaries that have helped those affected by Sandy.
And then there is Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey. I’ve written before about Mayor Booker’s use of Twitter. During Sandy and the ongoing recovery, Booker has tirelessly worked to respond to citizens and deliver necessary supplies to those in need. And when a woman messaged him that her power wasn’t on, he invited her and any other residents to stay at his home. He provided wi-fi, his DVD collection, power outlets to charge phones, heat, and food. Pretty incredible in this day and age. For a collection of his best tweets, check out this link.
I think folks, and governments and companies, are really seeing that social media is a two-way street that can work in their favor. But in most of these cases, it seems as if one or two dedicated individuals go beyond the call of duty to help people. And I wonder if the responses would have been the same without these vital employees.
Google has created an awesome “crisis map” to help citizens and public safety officials respond to Hurricane Sandy (see it here). The map has layers with the forecast track cone, projected storm surge, weather radar, precipitation, cloud imagery, web cams, public alerts, hurricane evacuation routes, traffic, and active evacuation shelters. The evacuation shelter information also includes their capacity and the number of current residents (courtesy of the Red Cross). Incredible.
This isn’t something that Google had to do. But their infrastructure and existing projects allow for easy deployment of tech like this that could save lives.
H/t to TechCrunch.
Canada, which already uses modern technology in this way, has 93 percent of its eligible citizens registered at a cost of less than 35 cents per voter to process registrations. By comparison, an in-depth study of one state found that Oregon taxpayers spent $4.11 per active voter in 2008 to process registrations and maintain a voter list.
Technology for a 21st Century Democracy. Scary.
“Few men have been so deeply involved in the critical issues of our time,” Johnson wrote to him when Mr. Katzenbach left government in 1968.
From the New York Times obituary of Nicholas Katzenbach.
The Washington Post has a great article on the retirement of Tony Griffin, Fairfax County’s county executive:
As Fairfax County’s county executive for more than a decade, Griffin has quietly managed one of Virginia’s most diverse and dynamic jurisdictions, a suburb of more than 1 million people that covers nearly 400 square miles. Only one person has held the post longer.
There is a reason I’ve gotten into government, and specifically city/county management. And Tony Griffin has lived a life of it. Go read the article, because this is what I want to do.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed spoke at the POLITICO Pro Transportation launch event recently. I found Mayor Reed’s talk interesting, especially since recently Governing magazine published a piece on the five biggest infrastructure projects that might not get finished. I mentioned it at the time, but pointing out the ten biggest projects and that half of those might not get finished is extremely discouraging. We need these projects, and we can’t get them done. And one of the biggest (Denver FasTracks) is right here in Denver.
One of the five biggest projects (and I’m sure it isn’t the only one) might be finished later than 2030. Does anyone realize that we are spending money and we don’t what the need will be twenty years or more in the future? We need light rail, water and sewer improvements, transportation improvements, today. Who knows what we will need in twenty or thirty years? That’s why I keyed on Mayor Reed’s talk.
Mayor Reed had this to say about the need for infrastructure projects and the failure to get them finished (12:30 into the video, emphasis mine):
I don’t have a problem with our ability to compete with the Chinese. I do have a problem with us sticking our head in the sand. Other people are making infrastructure decisions so much faster, getting them done, and getting them built out. We have the same capacity to do it. We have a will problem in the United States of America. We know how to figure out the financing, we have political leaders certainly at the local level and at the state level who understand that this is critical and we’re watching our country decay.
Our country has an incredible need for infrastructure improvements right now. Our infrastructure is in decay. And we desperately need to put people to work. Yet we can’t even find the will to get the most important problems fixed this decade (or the next).
That’s why I’m discouraged.