Overview: On the IdeaScale Nation podcast, Dr. Curt Carver, Chief Information Officer at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, discusses how he used a team-focused approach to build an innovation strategy.
Why Teamwork Matters
In government innovation, the best approach is teamwork. “As a longtime leader, one of my kind of guiding principles is only to hire people that are smarter than me,” says Dr. Curt Carver on the IdeaScale Nation podcast.
Carver started with this approach early, launching a crowdsourcing program to set his strategic priorities as Chief Information Officer for the wide-ranging University of Alabama at Birmingham. “The first day I was there, we turned on a crowdsourcing site, and we use that crowdsourcing as a catalyst to gather what things needed to be done at the organization,” he explains.
The goal was both to start with the entire team behind his approach and to shift how innovation was seen at the university. “innovation is not this rare and elusive thing, but instead something we do all the time. It’s just part of us.” So he set a standard: 100 innovative wins in his first year. Which, he goes on to explain, isn’t as incredible as it sounds.
Building A Stronger Team
Early on, Carver found much of his work fell into four buckets; pet ideas; moonshots; ideas that were simple, low-cost, and effective; and ideas that wound up connecting the dots between organizational resources. “There was a group of folks that would come in, and they’d say, Hey, I’d like to do functionality X, and I can’t do it. And what came out of that…is another community member came back and said, you can do that functionality, as it already exists, and this is how you do it.”
For example, he was asked to increase the amount of email storage space so people could do their jobs instead of deleting emails. Carver’s team looked into it and found only 3% of users ever even hit the quota. So they did away with it and focused on training just that 3%.
Carver points out that most of these came from the community, and the platform simply connected the right person with the right resource. Nonetheless, they underscored his point: Innovation was something everybody could do. As a result, UAB has seen 100 wins, or more, every year they’ve run the program.
A Growing Team
As Carver’s work has become more well known, it’s spread. “Although what we’ve seen is some spreading, we’ve seen the Faculty Senate go, ‘Hey, that’s a really good idea. I think we’re going to use that. And the president said, Hey, I think we’re going to use that too.”
Going forward, Carver is working with his team to automate rote tasks, so that they have more time to focus on innovation. “It’s easy to fall into the trap that our job is to keep the lights on,” Carver says. “[We moved] from where about one in four employees had spare capacity to about half of our organizational personnel. It’s really all personnel, but half of their time is now dedicated to innovation.”
Learn more by listening to Dr. Carver’s episode of the IdeaScale Nation podcast, or get started yourself and request a demo!