HDR from the phone. Pardon the reflection in the window.
Following up on my last post about Elon Musk, I’ve got another quote from the same article in Wired I want to share:
The problem is that at a lot of big companies, process becomes a substitute for thinking. You’re encouraged to behave like a little gear in a complex machine. Frankly, it allows you to keep people who aren’t that smart, who aren’t that creative.
This is one of the reasons startups can innovate so much. How do we get government to this point? In some situations, having a process is good. But I’ve seen it get to the point where employees don’t question anything – they just follow the process.
Wired magazine is running a great series on Icons to celebrate their 20 year anniversary.
For November, they profiled Elon Musk, an entrepreneur associated with Tesla Motors, PayPal, and SpaceX. This quote really stuck out to me; he was talking specifically about building space rockets here, but I think we all see this:
So, yeah, there’s a tremendous bias against taking risks. Everyone is trying to optimize their ass-covering.
It’s sad, but that’s completely applicable to government. We have to create a culture in government that accepts risk and failure as a consequence of constantly improving.
I’ve got another quote from the same article I’ll post later.
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.
- The Fire Department of New York had a one-woman Twitter response team. Emily Rahimi responded to cries for help when residents were unable to get through to 911 or 311.
- New York utility provider Con Edison also used social media to get out pertinent information and respond to customers.
- Philly311 greatly helped Philadelphia respond to questions and disseminate information.
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.
This is the greatest thing I’ve read online in a long time, courtesy of Ars Technica: Going boldly: Behind the scenes at NASA’s hallowed Mission Control Center. And also, Apollo Flight Controller 101: Every console explained.
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.
boston.com’s The Big Picture on the wildfires in the western United States. Incredible, eye-opening photos.
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.