October 5, 2022


Leader, founder, consultant & board member. CIO/CISO of the City of Glendale, AZ, delivering urban development through the digital revolution.

Digital innovation is a hot topic in many industries, with most organizations focused on updating and upgrading their systems and processes to better serve their employees and customers. While private companies are fast-tracking this transformation, the public sector is lagging behind.

It has been happening for years: compared to the private sector, the public sector is slow to adopt change or innovate. There are many reasons for this, including risk aversion and a persistent fan mentality. A case Why the public sector moves slower is the fact that organizations do not claim clients or customers. This can lead to a lack of motivation to stay on top of current trends and technology.

However, macroeconomic issues such as Covid-19 and ongoing cyber security risks are disrupting the “business as usual” mentality and forcing long-awaited change. Given this, public sector leaders must embrace innovation and harness the transformative power of a growth mindset.

A penchant for innovation goes hand in hand with a growth mindset. As Harvard Business Review He puts it succinctly: “People who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. When entire companies adopt a growth mindset, their employees report feeling much more empowered and engaged. they also receive much greater organizational support for collaboration and innovation.”

When the leadership and workforce both work with a growth mindset, innovation is encouraged and promoted. In 2022, the public sector simply cannot ignore digital transformation and the need for innovation. Citizens demand more.

Younger generations want a smarter citizen experience

Millennials and Generation Z are the driving force behind much needed innovation at the city level. As Government Technology states, “The digitally native generation has a set of urban standards that they expect to live up to. But they also want culture, they want access, they want it on demand – and they want it all fast.”

With greater acceptance of working from anywhere, traditional geographic boundaries are dissolving and competition between cities for share of wallet and public opinion of the new tech-savvy workforce is intensifying.

This forces local governments to use technology and innovation to improve the quality of life of their citizens. Public services are now focusing on how best to deliver value to citizens in healthcare (telemedicine), mobility, public safety, education and digital connectivity.

These metrics provide a good way to measure achievement in an otherwise hard-to-measure public sector environment—which provides healthy competition between cities.

“The future arrived yesterday”

In his 2009 book, The Future Arrived Yesterday: The Rise of the Protean Corporation and What It Means for You, Michael Malone talks about how companies must adapt and evolve or their business models will collapse. The Covid-19 pandemic provided a real-time example of how rapid change in adaptation can make or break companies: the organizations that were able to move quickly to virtual work were the ones that survived.

Working from home, once frowned upon in some sectors, has become the norm without serious loss of productivity. Vaccine development processes that used to take years, took only months. The power of real-time data and information and global collaboration became the norm. The more organizations—both public and private—leaned into a growth mindset, the easier it became to adapt.

As the world continues its digital transformation, public sector leaders must embrace a growth mindset. A critical part of a technology leader’s role is to be an “innovator”, encouraging public sector organizations to adopt a two-way mindset where reliability, consistency and business as usual can coexist harmoniously with agility, creativity and experimentation.

A healthy dose of childlike curiosity and encouragement to challenge the conventional are critical pieces to organizational success. When public sector leaders—and their teams—truly understand the importance of adopting a growth mindset, real innovation will happen.


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