Tag Archives: trends

Serving citizens best by collaborating with them

by Craig Thomler

Government runs on rules. Policies, processes and procedures designed to address every contingency and plan for every possible risk in order to provide equity, stability and certainty.

However, as experience has shown time and time again, we cannot predict the future.

While we continually attempt to plan ahead, largely these plans are based on extrapolating past trends and experiences.

This has served us well in times of relatively stable and slow-changing societies and provides enormous capability to mobilise and focus resources towards a few large and separate goals.

However it doesn’t work as effectively during rapidly changing conditions where there are a myriad of interlocking issues. The approach can also neglect large and important changes, which are often discontinuous and almost totally unpredictable.

History is littered with enormous societal, economic and cultural shifts brought on by unpredictable innovations; gunpowder, the printing press, steam-power, radio, television and, most recently, the internet.

Each of these – and other – innovations profoundly changed how societies operated, destroying industries and creating a stream of new inventions, professions and both political and cultural challenges in their wake.

In hindsight we can often see very clearly how these changes unfolded and they can appear historically as an evolutionary process. However when living just before or during these enormous shifts it is virtually impossible for most individuals or organisations to predict outcomes ten, five, two or even a single year ahead.

I believe we are living in this type of time right now. The invention of the internet, progress in nano and bio technologies and in alternative – hopefully sustainable – sources of energy is in the process of increasingly rapidly reshaping our world. At the same time we are facing the consequences of previous disruptive innovations – most notably climate change, fuelled by enormous levels of fossil fuel use over two hundred years and population growth, fuelled by improvements in food technology and medicine.

This becomes a time of enormous challenge for governments. How do we extrapolate trends, develop policies, acknowledge and address risks which didn’t exist a few years ago?

How do we continue to serve the public appropriately when the time required to plan, develop and implement national infrastructure is greater than the effective lifespan of that infrastructure?

How do we let go of faltering systems to embrace new ways of developing and implementing policy without losing continuity of governance?

And how long can we continue to govern incrementally when living in an exponential world?

We’re in a place where there are many more questions than answers. Issues are ever more complex and multi-faceted and can no longer be in silos. Our organisations need to be more flexible and adaptive in response to an increasingly assertive community who often have better tools and information than the government departments servicing them.

Fortunately the disruptive technologies we are developing also allow us to approach many of these challenges collectively on a national and international scale.

We have the means to mobilise the brainpower of a nation – or many nations – using the internet and simple crowdsourcing tools.

We’ve already seen communities emerge online where companies ask their insolvable questions publicly, allowing scientists, academics and the general public to discuss and provide suggestions.

We’ve also seen governments willing to ask questions of their constituents, rather than rely on traditional stakeholders, academics and bureaucrats to have all the answers.

I hope over the coming years we see Australian governments embrace serendipity rather than attempt unsuccessfully to chain it. I hope we see bureaucrats and citizens working collaboratively to address major issues, working in adaptive and flexible configurations rather than rigid silos, stepping beyond ‘consultation’ towards participatory policy development and evolution.

This will require courage on the part of elected officials and senior public servants alike. It will require different types of leadership and thinking, better communications and a broader focus on connecting people over managing fixed resources.

Can we achieve this step from where we are today?

I’m optimistic that we can, but it will take significant work and pain to achieve.

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Crowdsourcing ideas at US Homeland Security

Sourced with compliments from: http://www.informationweek.com/news/government/info-management/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=221600274

The federal agency plans to adopt the Transportation Security Administration’s IdeaFactory crowd-sourcing application to encourage brainstorming by employees.

The Department of Homeland Security is latching onto one of the Transportation Security Administration’s most innovative IT initiatives, a Web 2.0 crowd-sourcing portal called IdeaFactory. Like TSA, Homeland Security will use the platform to encourage its employees to come forward with new ideas on how to do things.

IdeaFactory is a custom-built, .NET Web application that lets employees submit ideas for new programs and rule changes. Other users can rate the ideas, comment on them, pick favorites, and forward them to others. When a proposal gets enough attention, it’s sent to an “idea committee” that reviews it and decides what steps to take. It’s essentially a digital, and transparent, ideas box.

The effort has been deemed a success at TSA, where 25,000 employees have posted 9,000 ideas, left 78,000 comments, and submitted 270,000 ratings. It’s led to the creation of more than 40 programs, such as the family security lanes at TSA-screened airports.

The White House has taken notice, featuring IdeaFactory on its Web site as an example of what the Obama administration is looking for in its open government initiative, and a few other agencies have mimiced the approach.

A plan to expand IdeaFactory was introduced earlier this year; DHS expects to make it available to all employees by January.

“This will definitely increase morale by allowing employees to give direct feedback, and it will also let us better communicate and share ideas,” said Larry Orluskie, IdeaFactory program manager at DHS, in an interview.

DHS is a larger organization than TSA, and DHS will have to work through technology and process issues for IdeaFactory to work there.

To help with that, DHS has assembled a 30-person group of representatives from each of its major divisions (Customs and Border Protection, Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and others) and its headquarters. The group, called the IdeaFactory Council, is putting processes in place that mirror TSA’s. One of its mandates will be to promote the adoption of ideas across the agency’s units.

DHS will encourage use of IdeaFactory internally, so that it doesn’t fall flat, and support is coming from the top. DHS secretary Janet Napolitano and deputy secretary Jane Holl Lute have been “very engaged” in the plan, said Orluskie.

‘Be A Mind Blower’ Crowdsource Competition

HENDERSON, Nev., Nov. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Zyxio, the pioneer in next-generation
Human Media Interaction, announced today the launch of its "Be A Mind Blower"
online competition, allowing the public to submit their most innovative and
creative ideas for product development in a variety of categories, utilizing
Zyxio's new patented breath-enabled technology SensaWaft(TM).  The five most
ingenious applicants will be selected by the public to sit on the company's
special "Mind Blowing Advisory Board" for a six month period to assist with
the development of the new products.  They will also receive $6,000 and an
all-expense paid three day trip to Las Vegas. 

Imagine breathing out to flick through icons.  Or, think of exhaling and swap
gears in your favorite video game, hands busy on the controller.  With
SensaWaft(TM) technology, this soon could be a possibility.  "Be A Mind
Blower" gives anyone 16-years-old and older and legally authorized to work in
the United States a chance to be involved in advising Zyxio on the development
of its next breath-enabled project.  Applicants simply submit an idea online
in the following categories: PC/laptops/netbooks,
games/multimedia/entertainment, assistive/multimodal/virtual reality,
smartphones/in-vehicle/enterprise and digital music/graphic design.  

Additionally, anyone is eligible to enter as a judge to rate submissions on a
5-point scale from "Are you out of your mind?!" (one point) to "Genius, I Say
Yes!" (five points).  Submissions with the most points at the end of the six
week competition will win.  "Be A Mind Blower" has extended judging to the
public to allow those who may not have their own ideas to participate in the
process and believes that the best ideas should be decided by the public at
large, not a small group of corporate executives.  All judges are
automatically entered into a sweepstakes with the chance to win a Samsung
Go(TM) netbook or a Motorola Droid(TM) Phone.  Two of each product will be
given away at the end of the competition.  

"We believe that involving users in the development process of our future
products is of utmost importance as they will be the ones incorporating our
unique touchless technology into their everyday lives," says Pierre Bonnat
co-founder, Zyxio. "The scope of applications for our intuitive technology is
limitless, and we are turning to the public, rather than a focus group or test
panel, to give us direction by electing the most innovated and useful ideas.
Our job then is to tailor the technology to fit their choices."

After the initial five week submission period ending on November 30, 2009,
applicants will be narrowed to the top 25.  The finalists will have the
ability to promote their ideas utilizing blogs, videos and social networks
within the "Be a Mind Blower" Web site.  The five winners will then be
selected according to their points score. 

Through this competition Zyxio is introducing an incomparable proprietary
technology called SensaWaft(TM), an intuitive solution that senses and
analyzes when one intentionally breathes to interact. It was developed based
on human interactional behavior, and utilizes the untapped potential of the
kinetic energy of breath to control digital screens.

"Be a Mind Blower" competition runs from November 5th, 2009 at 12.00 pm PST to
December 13th, 2009 at 11.59 p.m. PST.

The Scary Economics of Crowdsourcing

Sourced with compliments from: http://www.ebizq.net/blogs/connectedweb/2009/11/the_scary_economics_of_crowdso.php

One of the emerging phenomena associated with Web 2.0 — and one of the themes of the Enterprise 2.0 conference, which I’m here in San Francisco to attend today and tomorrow — is the notion of ‘crowdsourcing’. This is the use of the Web to find people to complete work projects through an open competitive auction process. Dion Hinchcliffe had a long post on its relevance to enterprise here on ebizQ a few weeks ago and as I read through and explored some of the links I started to find it all rather scary:

“… idea generation, design work, execution of business processes, testing services, and even customer support. All of these can now be connected, often programmatically, directly to a company’s supply chain … most companies have ready access to crowdsourcing across a wide set of functional areas, to the extent that it’s often the easiest thing for them to try before going the more expensive outsourcing route.”

What I found scary was the massive commoditization and deflation of costs that these crowdsourcing options were enabling. It’s now possible to go out and find brilliant designers working from Asia who will deliver high-quality creative work for a fraction of the price you’d pay your local design shop. Electronics manufacturers and games developers can tap the skills of teenagers as crowdsourced part-time helpdesk advisers. The systems are now sophisticated enough to make sure everyone gets paid a market rate for the work they put in, but those market rates are lowered by the global and fragmented scale of competition, in which anyone with the skills and available time can offer their services.

Wired magazine recently carried an article about a company that is harnessing crowdsourcing with automation and intelligent algorithms to build a multi-million dollar business. The Answer Factory: Fast, Disposable, and Profitable as Hell has some very scary passages, such as:

“That’s not to say there isn’t any room for humans in Demand’s process. They just aren’t worth very much … It’s the online equivalent of day laborers waiting in front of Home Depot … Nearly every freelancer scrambles to load their assignment queue with titles they can produce quickly and with the least amount of effort — because pay for individual stories is so lousy, only a high-speed, high-volume approach will work. The average writer earns $15 per article for pieces that top out at a few hundred words, and the average filmmaker about $20 per clip, paid weekly via PayPal.”

If this is the future of work, it’s going to ruin quite a few people’s careers, even while it makes others. I don’t think it’s stoppable, and it’s going to be a scary ride.

Events Often Overtake Companies

Sourced with compliments from http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2009/09/events-often-overtake-companies.html

I’ve found myself saying “events overtake companies” a lot this week. I’m not sure exactly why it was the phrase of the past week, but I did spend a lot of time talking to entrepreneurs running businesses that are growing rapidly, causing the founders to rethink their strategic plans.

I think less than 20% of the companies we back end up doing what they started out planning on doing. They build something, get it into the market, and then things happen. Often it turns out the market wants something a bit different than they are offering. Or that the users adopt one part of the product and don’t use another part very much at all. Or developers start building things on top of the API that opens their eyes to a much bigger opportunity. Or it could simply be that the market loves what they built and they have to spend all their time on scaling and infrastructure and all the things they planned on building go to the back burner.

Innovation – Elite Unit or Crowdsource?

Sourced with compliments from http://www.business-strategy-innovation.com/2009/09/innovation-elite-unit-or-crowdsource.html

A classic dilemma for companies is determining the best way to foster innovation. There are many good books with different approaches. Clayton Christensen’s “Innovator’s Dilemma” has influenced a generation’s thinking about innovation. He focuses management and entrepreneurs’ attention on the Big I: ‘disruptive innovation’.

One outcome of the popularity of Christensen’s book is the awareness people have that entrenched business practices can inhibit companies’ ability to recognize and address discontinuous innovations from new market entrants. Motorola, for example, is often held up as an example of this. The company continued to develop only analog cell phones even as the digital phones were getting traction. In clinging to analog, which it dominated, it fell far behind in the mobile phone market.