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Archive for the ‘innovation’ Category

07.24.2012: GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER: Feds sounding off on government innovation; and making a biz case for open data

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On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER for Tuesday 24 July 2012:

  • Government innovation — yes, I know people don’t believe those two words can go together. Insights about what YOU think about government innovation from a just released report. We’ll talk to Tom Fox from the Partnership for Public Service.
  • Is there a business case for open data… for open government. And how can you make open data work. The Commerce Department is hoping to answer those questions with a new competition. We talk to Brand Niemann — a former fed who has submitted for the Commerce Department’s contest — about open data.

Also… the 7-stories that impact government — another voice sounds off about the STOCK Act and another controversial GSA conference…

And in the DorobekINSIDER watercooler fodder… AC/DC and Iranian nuclear plants.

Written by cdorobek

July 24, 2012 at 6:52 PM

05.08.2012 DorobekINSIDER: What the sale of GTSI means for IT contracting; Why video makes changes telework; and A Virtual Tour of the Newseum

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On Today’s Show for Tuesday May 8th, 2012

  • GTSI — the company has been a staple of government IT contracting… and it has now been bought. Insights and analysis about what happened and what it means from Nick Wakeman of Washington Technology.
  • Could video be the key to telework success? Maybe yes. Find out why.
  • The technology behind the Newseum’s new Media Gallery…could be used for government. You’ll learn how with HP.
Some big GovLoop news — Steve Ressler — Mr. GovLoop himself — is going to be a daddy. Of course, there are some great comments on Facebook… Ressler 2.0… many people saying how AWESOME it is. We are looking forward to the arrival in September. Congratulations to Team Ressler… and the player to be named later.Remember the bailouts? It appears that the government could actually turn a profit — $15 billion in profit — from the bailout of American International Group — AID. The Washington Post sites a report by the Government Accountability Office. GAO says the the Federal Reserve and the Treasury made available more than $180 billion in aid to the struggling financial giant in 2008 through a variety of mechanisms, including cash infusions. Since then, the Fed and Treasury have recouped all but $46.3 billion.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life for Tuesday the 8th of May,…

  1. We told you last week about how House Republicans were considering a bill that would  protect increased defense department spending. Politico says House Republicans have decided to push ahead with plans to protect increased defense spending without raising taxes, largely by cutting more from domestic programs, including aid to the poor. Politico says the bill won’t sit well with Senate Democrats, who are open to “buying down” a portion of the cuts but believe time, the law — and President Barack Obama — are on their side, unless Republicans show some movement on revenues.
  2. Feds will pay more for their pensions under a new House budget bill. The House Budget Committee approved a bill to avoid the automatic budget cuts scheduled for next year. Government Executive says the alternative budget plan heads to the full House for a vote later this week. Federal News Radio says the bill is designed to skip sequestration by overriding the Budget Control Act now in effect. The new bill includes a 5 percent hike in the amount federal employees contribute to their retirement costs. That raise would be phased in over five years. The White House has vowed to veto the bill should it come to the president’s desk.
  3. Merit Systems Protection Board’s [PDF] policies are getting a makeover. Federal News Radio says the board is looking at how the board is organized, how members make decisions and its practices and procedures for hearing and deciding cases. Chairman Susan Grundmann called the revision a “watershed event.” The agency has already gathered ideas from staff and outside stakeholders. It will publish a proposal in June to give the public time to comment.
  4. Former Federal CIO Vivek Kundra warns that Facebook could be the end of conferences as we know it. Kundra, speaking at at the Excellence in Government conference sponsored by Government Executive, said the federal government needs to use social networks to bring people together from all around the world, not more conferences. He says agencies — many of which are “multi-national” with foreign offices — establish online communities where U.S.-based staff, overseas co-workers and their customers can informally connect anytime, anywhere
  5. The House wants to clear up any confusion with the Pentagon’s new cybersecurity role. NextGov reports, House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Howard McKeon has called for legislative language to clarify that the Pentagon can launch secret cybersecurity operations to support military efforts and guard against network attacks. In a release of his draft bill of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2013, the Republican lawmaker pushed for a clause to confirm that the Pentagon has “the authority to conduct clandestine military activities in cyberspace.”
  6. Hackers for good? That’s the idea behind the new group of hackers called the Unknowns.Government Computer News says the group hacked into NASA and Air Force computers to help those agencies patch up security holes. In a blog post on Pastebin, the group said that unlike hacker group Anonymous, it is not against the U.S. government. The Unknowns posted the names and email addresses of government employees but then sent emails to those same employees telling them how they could protect themselves in the future.
  7. And on GovLoop, we’re asking you does your team resemble the Avengers? How many of you have been on a team with team members that resemble one of the Avengers? Take Tony Stark (aka Iron Man), for example. He’s a man who knows everything, has ego for days along with a complimenting sarcastic attitude; or Dr. Bruce Banner (aka The Hulk) a guy who struggles hard to hide his demon under a veneer of cool, and is a recluse (and not much of a team player) because of it; or Thor — the demi god who comes down with a big hammer and acts without complete information most of the time. What do you think? Does your team resemble this group?
A Few Closing Items:
  • Why is austerity so unpopular in Europe? The Washington Post says because, at least so far, it hasn’t worked. Europeans are rebelling against austerity. That’s the read on Sunday’s elections in Greece and France. But why do voters loathe austerity? Perhaps because, as economists have found, efforts to rein in budget deficits can take a wrenching toll on living standards, especially in a recession. And the Washington Post highlights a recent paper for the International Monetary Fund that looked at 173 episodes of fiscal austerity over the past 30 years. These were countries that, for one reason or another, cut spending or raised taxes to shrink their budget deficits. And the results were typically painful: Austerity, the IMF paper found, “lowers incomes in the short term, with wage-earners taking more of a hit than others; it also raises unemployment, particularly long-term unemployment”.
  • Meanwhile, what can be done to put GSA back together again? Federal Computer Week has a column from former GSAer Bob Woods who says there is reason for hope. While it could get worse before it gets better, Woods says this is an opportunity to look at how business has been done — and do a real assessment about whether there is a better way. And he says, streamlining GSA’s regions is one obvious step.

Written by jarvisdorobek

May 8, 2012 at 1:33 PM

05.07.2012 DorobekINSIDER: And the SAMMIES nominees are…; EPA turns trash into energy; and the Newseum’s New Media Gallery

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On today’s program for Monday May 7th, 2012:

  • The nominees are in for the Oscars for Federal Employees — The Service to America Medals award.
  • Turning garbage into energy at the EPA — just one of the amazing SAMMIES nominees.
  • Taking an inside virtual tour of the Newseum’s new media gallery here in Washington… and what it means for government.

Big federal government contracting news this morning: GTSI, which government marketing guru Mark Amtower called the grand-daddy of government resellers, is being sold. GTSI announced this morning that Unicom, based in Los Angeles, is buying the company for $77 million. Washington Technology says it is quite a fall from grace for the company, particularly after the company’s run-in with the Small Business Administration over its small business sales.

Did you see 60 Minutes last night? CBS News correspondent Leslie Stall spoke to two Air Force pilots who refuse to fly the F-22 Raptor — the most expensive fighter ever — because it has been plagued by a mysterious flaw that causes its pilots to become disoriented, apparently from a lack of oxygen.

DorobekINSIDER’s: SEVEN stories that impact your life for Monday the 7th of May, 2012
  1. 12.1 — that’s the percentage of spending cuts agencies could see next January if Congress does not come up with an alternative to sequestration. Federal News Radio says the cuts are based on agencies’ fiscal 2012 discretionary budgets. The Budget Control Act passed last August called for reducing federal spending by $1.2 trillion over the next decade with half of the cuts come from defense spending. Congress returns today, and the House will take up an alternative to sequestration.
  2. There could be another rounds of base closures. The Washington Post says the Defense Department is gearing up for consolidation once again, putting local companies and lobbying firms on alert. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta says that despite the controversy that normally surrounds such moves, “it is the only effective way to achieve infrastructure savings.”
  3. Former Immigration and Customs Enforcement intelligence chief James Woosley pleaded guilty for part in a scheme to file almost $600,000 in false travel expense reports for contractors.  MSNBC says Woosley must surrender over $180,000 of his profits in a scheme that also included several other ICE employees and contractors. He faces 18 to 27 months in jail and a potential fine.
  4. We told you about this last week, but the Washington Post is reporting this morning that the Air Force plans to restart the IT contracts after protests from losing companies. The April 16 award for network equipment is valued at $6.9 billion.  General Dynamics and technology company GTSIwere among nine contractors picked to share the network equipment contract. The Government Accountability Office says the Harris Corp and Dell, were two of those contractors challenging the deal.
  5. Speaking of contracting – government relationships….The White House has just released a second round of advice for how government and its contractors can communicate more freely. Federal News Radio says the announcement is part of a new memo from the Office of Federal Procurement Policy that outlines eight myths plus eight realities to dispose of them. The so-called Mythbusters 2 is signed by acting procurement chief Lesley Field. The new memo emphasized industry misconceptions. The original 2010 Mythbusters memo dealt with myths held by government.
  6. ‘Tis not the season—to be moving Christmas trees, that is. The National Christmas Tree succumbed to “transplant shock” after being moved from the White House lawn, the National Park Service reported Saturday. The Park Service says it already has a replacement in mind for the Colorado blue spruce that occupied a spot on the White House’s South Lawn, and it will be in place by the time the holiday season rolls around next winter. The new tree reportedly will not be planted until October.
  7. And on GovLoop, we go myth busting with the federal sector equal employment opportunity (EEO) complaint process. Yeah, it doesn’t sound like all that much fun. But it’s an important part of government that many people don’t understand. We separate fact from fiction in a post by GovLoop member David Grinberg.

A Few Closing Items: 

  • It hasn’t happened since Richard Nixon was president — the government shrank. The New York Times’ Floyd Norris reports that for the first time in 40 years, the government sector of the American economy has shrunk during the first three years of a presidential administration. Spending by the federal government, adjusted for inflation, has risen at a slow rate under President Obama. That increase has been more than offset by a fall in spending by state and local governments, which have been squeezed by weak tax receipts. In the first quarter of this year, the real gross domestic product for the government — including state and local governments as well as federal — was 2 percent lower than it was three years earlier, when Barack Obama took office in early 2009, the Times says. The last time the government actually got smaller over the first three years of a presidential term was when Richard M. Nixon was president. That decrease was largely because of declining spending on the Vietnam War.
  • A budget update:The Hill reports that House Republicans will bring their budget up for a vote this week. The Hill says that House lawmakers will return to a familiar debate over the deficit when they come back to Washington today. Republican leaders are planning to bring up a $260 billion measure to slash the budget gap and replace across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect in 2013. And we mentioned this earlier, but… The bill, known as a ‘reconciliation’ proposal, is the product of six House committees and will be combined into one piece of legislation by the House Budget Committee… Principally, the GOP measure would replace $78 billion in sequestered cuts resulting from the failure of the congressional ‘supercommittee’ to strike a bipartisan deficit deal last fall… In addition to the $78 billion in sequester replacement, the bill contains an additional $180 billion in cuts aimed at reducing the deficit. Among the federal programs hit are food stamps, funding for the 2010 healthcare and financial regulatory laws and the refundable child tax credit.
  • The Human Capital League has a wonderful post… Top 10 HR Lessons from Star Wars -Number 10: Nepotism doesn’t work… and they have Darth Vader saying, ‘Luke, you know, I really think you should reconsider Imperial employment. We pay competitively, and we have a great benefits package.

–Emily Jarvis

Written by jarvisdorobek

May 7, 2012 at 12:21 PM

04.17.2012 DorobekINSIDER: Can Ping Pong helps you innovate?; Making budget transparency easy; the 411 on online training

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On Today’s DorobekINSIDER for Tuesday April 17, 2012:

  • The science behind innovation — and how showering, napping and ping pong fit into the process. Really…ping pong makes people more creative. You’ll learn how with a new book called Imagine: How Creativity Works. (We even talk about the bathrooms at Pixar.)
  • Are there new ways to look at how government formulates budget — including making them more transparent? We’ll break them down with Matthew Hall from Open Plans.
  • The GSA conference spending scandal has put training in jeopardy. So how do you train your people and still come in under budget. Advice from Steve Ressler the Founder of GovLoop.

The Space Shuttle — Discovery, mated to a specially modified Boeing 747, made her way to the Smithsonian’s 

Air and Space Museum this morning — landing at Washington’s Dulles International Airport and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center. But before it landed the shuttle made a swing past the National Mall.

Here is some footage from our own GovLoop team!

The EIGHT stories that impact your life your government world…

  1. Former GSA Administrator Martha Johnson has apologized for the lavish spending at the 2010 Western Regions Conference. Johnson told House lawmakers at a hearing on Capitol Hill that she regrets rewarding conference organizer Jeffrey Neely with a bonus. The Wall Street Journal says Neely who was also at the hearing declined to make a statement citing his fifth amendment rights.
  2. The Defense Department says there might be more military personnel involved in misconduct before President Obama’s trip to Colombia. Five additional Defense Department employees were seen on a video carousing with the 11 secret service agents at the center of the probe. The Washington Post says 11 Secret Service agents have already been placed on leave amid allegations they entertained prostitutes, potentially one of the most serious lapses at the organization in years.
  3. The time it takes to retire is dwindling. The Office of Personnel Management has put in extra effort to fix its long-standing pension processing backlog. OPM says they owe their success to process improvements. Federal Times says OPM’s Director John Berry outlined the new strategy last January that called for a combination of increased staffing, streamlined processes, improved information technology and better cooperation with other agencies. So far this year the agency has reduced the backlog by more than 14%.
  4. The Justice Department has known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people nationwide.  But the Washington Post says prosecutors failed to notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew were troubled. The DOJ started reviewing cases in the 1990s after reports of sloppy work by examiners at the FBI lab. But the officials only reviewed a small portion of the cases. The Justice Department claims they’ve met their legal and constitutional obligations when they learned of specific errors, that they alerted prosecutors and were not required to inform defendants directly.
  5. The GSA is boosting its mileage reimbursement rate. Now federal commuters who use their own cars to drive to work can expense an additional 4.5 cents per mile. GovExec says the new law takes effect today.
  6. Reported military sexual assaults are on the rise. Government Executive says the Defense Department saw a total of 3,192 reported incidents, a 1 percent increase over fiscal 2010. In the last year the DoD has implemented new policies designed to combat sexual assaults, including expanded legal assistance and expedited transfers for victims, as well as a longer retention of forensic evidence and investigative reports, according to the Defense report.
  7. Air Force Times, “Tech. sgts. take heat after receiving medals,” by Jeff Schogol: “Within the span of a week, two female airmen who were awarded the Bronze Star have been targeted by cyber bullies who claim they do not deserve their awards, generating a wider discussion of who should be eligible for the Bronze Star Medal and whether the Air Force issues too many of the medals.”
  8. DARPA is looking for more power-efficient computing systems. The Pentagon’s research arm says existing computer systems don’t process data quickly enough for military operations. Next Gov reports intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems today have senSors that collect far more information than can be processed in real time.

– Emily Jarvis

Written by jarvisdorobek

April 17, 2012 at 12:42 PM

04.09.2012: DorobekINSIDER: The winner of the TAG Challenge; tracking illnesses on Twitter; and women in government technology

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Good Monday… And what an unusual week last week. We spent most of our week at FOSE — the big government IT conference and trade show where we brought you insights from the federal CIO, Steven VanRoekel — and a retired Navy Admiral’s leadership lessons. [More here.] And we’ll have more for you this week including an interesting panel pulling from senior women in technology that was quite insightful… we’ll also hear from the Defense Department Principal Deputy chief information officer about DOD’s IT plans.

But, of course, the big story of the week — and it was the buzz of FOSE too — GSA and that now infamous Public Build Service Western Region Conference. The Washington Post kept the story alive on Sunday with an interview with the mind reader who was at that 2010 conference in Las Vegas.

On Friday for our issue of the week, we got to talk to Jim Williams, who served as the commissioner of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service and as the acting administrator for a period of time to get his take on this situation… and what can be done. And it’s GovLoop, so we would love to get your thoughts: What should GSA do now?

And we have to note… yes, we are hearing a LOT of concern out there about the STOCK Act — the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act. This is the bill — now law — designed to deal with lawmakers using inside from making money off of that information… essentially, it makes insider trading by lawmakers illegal. But it didn’t stop there. The bill also requires that members of the Senior Executive Service to post their financial disclosures online… and it broadens those financial disclosures. The Senior Executive Association has wrote a letter protesting the provision.

In their letter, the Senior Executive Association said that putting these disclosure forms on the Internet would appear to be “a gross violation of the spirit of the Privacy Act” and that supervisors could be subject to “unwarranted personal scrutiny by their subordinates, causing tension and problems in the workplace,” while foreign interests, including terrorists, could get access to information on federal employees serving abroad.

Beyond all that, it would just seem to make it even more difficult to find good people — I mean, who wants a job where you aren’t a public figure but you have to put all of your financial information out there? We’re working to get somebody who can help you figure out what to do, but… very troubling…

On today’s program…

More information and links posted soon.

Written by cdorobek

April 10, 2012 at 7:30 AM

03.22.2012 DorobekINSIDER: Disruptive innovation with Deloitte’s Bill Eggers; creating Ethics.gov and Virginia Decoded

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Happy Thursday.

We start off with a topic we come to so often… your money…

House GOP Fiscal Year 2013 Budget | Budget.House.GovThe House Budget Committee passed the Republican version of the fiscal 2013 budget yesterday — but just barely. Ezra Klein in the Washington Post’s WonkBlog notes that the House Budget Committee has 38 members — 22 Republicans and 16 Democrats. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, is the man who has in many ways defined the conservative approach to the federal budget… and yet the Ryan budget passed by only one vote.

Some of that leads the Wall Street Journal to suggest we may be headed to… yes, you know it — a government shutdown… even in the weeks before the election. The Journal says the budget act passed last year has been coming apart in pieces and the disagreements between the White House and congressional Republicans over spending levels has heightened the chance of a government shutdown just weeks before the November election. The budget agreement signed into law last August was supposed to help avoid such a showdown, but today, it seems possible. And the Journal says the flashpoint came this week Congressman Ryan called for more than $1 trillion in discretionary spending for the year beginning Oct. 1. That represents $19 billion less than the level agreed to with the White House last year and put into law.

We’ll watch it carefully, of course… we always try to stay away from shutdown hype, but even the talk impacts how government operates, so we’ll keep an eye on it.

On today’s program…

All that ahead…

But after the break, as we do each day, we start with the stories that impact your life for Thursday the 22 of March, 2012… your government world in 120-seconds…

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Written by cdorobek

March 22, 2012 at 1:48 PM

03.15.2012 DorobekINSIDER: The ambiguity of open gov; Regulations.gov 2.0; what innovators don’t talk about

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So do you have an elevator pitch for your organization’s mission? Could you do it in one minute? Can you make strategy fun? Dave McClure, the associate administrator of GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technology, has created a video laying out his organization’s strategy. And not only that — they’ve posted it online. We’d love to hear your thoughts about it. And it’s only one minute.

And do you remember last week we told you about Santa Cruz, California where they are using big data to help them actually find where crime happens — it allows them to get ahead of crime. It’s a pretty awesome story about another case where data mining can now be used to help catch crooks. Researchers from the University of Memphis were able to detect local crime patterns – geographic hot spots on the city’s map and moments in time when they’re most likely to flare up. We have the link to our conversation with officials from Santa Cruz… and to the story in Atlantic Cities.

And today, I’m moderating a panel on mobile in the workplace for AFFIRM — the Association for Federal Information Resource Managers. We’ll have some highlights of that next week.

On today’s program…

  • The polarizing power of Open Government…the problem could lie in the ambiguity of the term open government.
  • Regulations dot gov gets a makeover. You’ll learn about the site’s relaunch.
  • What are innovators NOT talking about…that’s what you need to be listening out for.

All that ahead…

But after the break, we start with the stories that impact your life for Thursday the 14 of March, 2012… your government world in 120-seconds…

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Written by cdorobek

March 16, 2012 at 8:02 AM

03.12.2012: DorobekINSIDER: New media matures – and changes the VA; how to take responsibility; and having good conflicts

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The start of our second week… thanks for being here.

GovLoop InsightsAnd there was some significant news on Friday — a new nominee to be the Obama administration’s chief technology officer — Todd Park. Park has been serving as the chief technology officer at the Department of Health and Human Services. He is an awesome guy… and he has done some remarkable things. We’ll chat about that more later… And HHS has also named Frank Baitman as the new chief information officer at the HHS. Baitman has served most recently at FDA and SSA. That post has been filled in an acting capacity for some time.

And did you order an iPad HD? Well, if not… Apple’s cupboards are bare, for the moment. Apple’s good marketing aside, it mostly means you have to wait a bit… like a few days. No need to panic.

We have a great show for you today…

  • Remember when everybody was talking about NEW media — you needed a new media person to change how you get information out to the public? Well, that term is becoming passe. But new media — whatever you want to call it — it is more that just messaging. It has really changed the very nature of how organizations work and operate. And we’re going to talk to the person who has led new media at the Department of Veterans Affairs about their challenges in 2012…
  • Accountability — we’re always talking about accountability in government, right? As if there isn’t enough accountability… but sometimes people don’t feel really responsible for the agency’s goals and mission. We’re going to talk to a professor who has studied this subject — and he’s written a new book… Stepping Up: How Taking Responsibility Changes Everything. We’ll talk to him about responsibility.
  • Ever have a big of a fight with somebody at work? Nothing physical, but… is there a way to have happy conflicts? Seem too good to be true? We’ll talk to an expert about how you can turn a negative into a positive.

All that ahead… but after the break, we start off with the stories that impact your life for Monday 12 March, 2012… your government world in 120-seconds…

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Written by cdorobek

March 12, 2012 at 1:19 PM

Hear the DorobekINSIDER Book Club: Little Bets

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Little BetsFor the past several years, I have been hosting something I call the DorobekINSIDER Book Club — it is something like the Oprah Book Club but more wonky. Essentially, we select a book that is tied to my favorite words: It helps the government do its job better. We invite the author… and then we invite a fed — or feds — to talk about how that book impacts how you do your job.

And, in fact, the books we have selected are usually chosen by government people themselves.

I’ve been very lucky — I’ve hosted some great authors and remarkable books… and we’ve had amazon people from the government world join in the discussion. (Previous meetings are in the liner notes below.)

This week, we held the latest ‘meeting’ of the book club — the book is by Peter SimsLittle Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries.

I used to hold the book club discussions on the radio. But now, we get to do them the way book clubs are supposed to be held: In person. I got to lead a discussion at the 2012 Adobe Government Assembly hosted by 1105 Media. And it was a great discussion. We had Peter Sims and we were joined by Dave McClure, the Associate Administrator of GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, who is one of the brightest people I know.

I mentioned earlier, “Little Bets” was recommended by Peter Levin, the chief technology officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs — an agency which has historically been bogged down in projects that were over budget and way beyond the schedule. And Levin has tried to institute “lay-ups” to get some momentum within the agency. Levin and VA CIO Roger Baker have made remarkable progress, by all accounts.

The book club conversation is wide ranging — and we talk about challenges that agencies face.

But we’d love to get your thoughts. We’ve created a page on GovLoop, and I hope you’ll add your thoughts and ideas about the conversation… and I hope you’ll read the book and suggest ideas for how to make little bets work within your agency or organization… what works… and what doesn’t? How do you make ‘little bets’ actually happen?

Meanwhile… the full discussion…

After the break, the liner notes:

 

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by cdorobek

February 9, 2012 at 5:49 PM

The DorobekINSIDER Book Club selection: Little Bets by Peter Sims

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Little BetsIt’s back — the DorobekINSIDER Book Club… and this time, it’s more interactive.

For newcomers… think of the DorobekINSIDER Book Club as a wonky version of the Oprah book club. And now, we actually get to have a book club ‘meeting.’

The specifics:

When: Wednesday, February 8 at the 2012 Adobe Government Assembly  at 9a
Where: The National Press Club in Washington, DC 

The Book: Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries  by Peter Sims.

Participating in the discussion will be the author, Peter Sims… and Dave McClure, the Associate Administrator of GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, who is one of the brightest people I know … and, of course, you can participate too.

Why this book…

Credit for selecting this book goes to Peter Levin, the chief technology officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs. I was lucky to be part of a team interviewing Levin for the winter 2012 publication  by the CGI Institute for Collaborative Government. During that interview, Levin spoke about the book — and the ideas behind it:

Levin arrived at the VA in June 2009 with a strategy for establishing leadership early on. In close cooperation with the secretary, deputy secretary, chief of staff and CIO, Levin decided to go after the “layups.” Inspired by the strategy Peter Sims outlines in his book “Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries,” Levin wanted to build momentum for transformational change by systematically taking small, exploratory steps and being open to new ideas along the way.

“He wrote down my playbook,” Levin said of Sims. “It’s exactly what I did and still do — not try to boil the ocean or solve every problem in the first two weeks.”

Levin said his first layup was not in an area his bosses expected. “For personal reasons, I was keenly focused on suicide prevention,” Levin said, referring to the fact that he lost many family members to the Holocaust and knows that survivors and their descendants have high rates of suicide, divorce and mental illness. “For me, that was a place where a morally transcendent problem met personal interest, met the opportunity to actually do something meaningful and worthwhile quickly.”

He proposed augmenting the Veterans Crisis Line with an anonymous online chat service for veterans who didn’t feel comfortable talking on the telephone. One month later, the service was a reality.

“With Roger Baker’s help, we got that stood up quickly, and today we have had more than 3,000 interventions,” Levin said. “It’s hard to say how many would have led to tragedy, but I bet it’s more than one. In my faith tradition, if you save one, you save the world.”

In subsequent discussions with government executives, there is broad consensus: Government is not great at making little bets. Federal CIO Steve VanRoekel speaking at CES Government last month told the story about when he was at the FCC and he wanted to create a way to measure wireless speeds. The response — a decidely non-little bet approach — was the often selected approach: Build something from the ground up… at a projected cost of $5 million. In the end, the FCC built an app — for a fraction of the cost. (Hear VanRoekel’s mobile government speech… or just hear the story about the FCC app.) And, frankly, former federal CIO Vivek Kundra told a similar story about when the Transportation Security Administration was looking to create a blog and a member of the CIO organization said it would cost $50,000 to create a blogging platform. TSA went on to use Google’s free Blogger blog platform… and the TSA blog is one of the most read across government.

Frankly, I’m not sure this kind of story is unique to government, but… There are a host of reasons the government is leery about taking chances.

Some of the topics we will discuss:

  • What is a ‘little bet’ anyway?
  • How does one decide what a little bet is?
  • What are the obstacles to little betting?
  • The government has to solve big problems. Are little bets really the answer?
  • What is you bet — and lose?
We’ll also talk to him about his recently launched projected, Fuse Corps, which he describes as a “social venture that will pair some of America’s top entrepreneurial leaders with governors, mayors and community leaders across America to drive meaningful social change.”

During our conversation, I hope to delve into some of those challenges — and some of the solutions.

If you haven’t read the book yet, you can at least read the introduction [PDF] from Peter Sims Web site.

I will post audio of the conversation later this week… and I’ll also open a discussion on GovLoop where I hope you will share your thoughts.

I look forward to your thoughts.

Previous DorobekINSIDER  Book Club “meetings”:

* The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen M.R. Covey. Read more and find a link to the book club session here.
* Payback: Reaping the Rewards of Innovation by James P. Andrew, Harold L. Sirkin, and John Butman. Read more and hear the book club “meeting” with Andrew and Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra find a link to the book club session here.
* Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink. Read more and hear the book club “meeting” here.
* What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis. Read more and find a link to the book club session here.
* Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World by Don Tapscott. Read more and find a link to the book club session here.
* Fired Up or Burned Out: How to reignite your team’s passion, creativity, and productivity by Michael Lee Stallard. Read more and hear the book club meeting here.
* The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social Media by Tony Bingham and Marcia  Conner. Read more and hear the book club “meeting.”

Written by cdorobek

February 8, 2012 at 12:08 AM

Posted in books, innovation

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