Innovation Management Award Spotlight: City of Calgary

calgary-coverAt IdeaScale, we host the annual innovation management awards in order to honor the accomplishments of some truly groundbreaking organizations, but also so that some of our smartest clients can share their best practices with others. This year, we honored the accomplishments of the City of Calgary, Oak Ridge National Laboratories, and the National Cancer Institute as well as runner’s up.

We  invited our winners to answer a few interview questions and we’re pleased that the City of Calgary had some great advice and answers to share:

IdeaScale: Why is innovation vital to your organization?

City of Calgary: There are three reasons. First, given the current economic environment, there’s no better time to focus on ways to work together, improve existing City services, and better meet the emerging needs of Calgarians.  Building upon previous programs dedicated to cutting red tape, it is believed that innovation will help us be less risk averse, more entrepreneurial, more creative, and promote Calgary as a great place to make a living and a great place to make a life.

Secondly, technology is changing the game for cities. Entire industries are being disrupted and local governments are not immune if they wish to remain relevant and competitive. The gap between citizen needs and the ability for cities to meet them will only widen as the pace of change increases. Our team recognizes this and feels an innovation practice is vital to sense and adapt to emerging trends and technologies.

Thirdly, Calgary is a diverse city. The knowledge of our citizens and staff is a vast and invaluable resource that is vital to helping solve some of our biggest challenges. It is important that we find new ways of reaching our staff colleagues who work ‘on the ground’ as well as citizens who bring new insights and connections into our communities.  Innovation is an important tool to uncover new ideas, to collaborate, and foster a culture where finding better, easier ways of doing things is explored and celebrated.

IS: What’s the most important piece of advice that you can give to someone launching an IdeaScale community?

City of Calgary: While IdeaScale is a powerful tool, consider resisting the urge to incorporate every feature right from the start. Keep the initial barriers to entry low, and allow your process to adapt and grow along with the experience and sophistication of the community members. We’ve found that sometimes the process can be messy (in a good way) and there may not always be a 1:1 relationship between an idea and an outcome. The idea may be part of a broader theme, or it is in the interaction between ideas that the true insight arrives. Also, it is never too early to test your overall assumptions about what people think your community is about and what they think they can do. Based on these learnings, adjust your written copy as well as the site’s ‘languages and strings’ to create a better fit with the audience.

IS: What are you most proud of in your innovation program?

City of Calgary: To date, it has been extremely gratifying to connect staff from across the various departments of the City and it has enabled them to understand campaigns (we call them ‘challenges’) as a new way of working together. Small ideas when viewed individually become big opportunities when viewed collectively. I would consider our work internally with the staff community as a ‘proof of concept’ and we’re now looking forward to citizens joining us in these conversations and this new way of working.

It has also been great to receive some of the thoughts and insights from our colleagues on the efforts to date – here’s one example:

“I LOVE, the new site.  I was a big fan of the Cut Red Tape initiative out of the Mayor’s office and this Innovation site takes it to the next level. Just a phenomenal idea, and the site looks to be a great execution of that.  Really well done, I can’t wait to see where it goes!”

Another colleague who is new to the organization expressed that the innovation program has helped him feel connected to The City as an organization and suggested this program will help recruit new talent who would have otherwise not considered The City as place to make a career.

Learn more about our award winners here.

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