In many towns and cities, day-to-day decisions are made by employees entrusted with overseeing the millions of dollars residents contribute to making sure their water is clean, their roads are paved or clear of snow, and their schools are staffed with the best educators available.
These decisions are often made with little direct oversight by residents. There are, of course, exceptions - Maywood, Calif. recently made headlines when it outsourced all its services, and as the New York Times observed, "The sky didn't fall."
A government-sponsored idea campaign can result in real benefits, provided the ideas for improvement actually get carried out. In fact, many real-world examples of Idea Central can be applied just as easily to the budgeting and service-related problems of governments big and small.
In business: The business sets targets and looks to executives and employees to find ways to meet these goals and targets (e.g. "How can we reduce costs by 20 percent?" or "How can we enter the automotive market?").
In government: Looking to cut costs? A single Idea Central event pooling the brainpower of hundreds or thousands of employees and residents can yield new approaches and set targets ("If we cut programs, what effect will this have on different segments of the population?")
In business: Identify wasteful processes or procedures to streamline work and reduce overhead. Introduce Lean initiatives.
In government: When an elected official says in a campaign, "I promise to improve government," have them show you how.
In business: Explore how to leverage partner network or close externals (e.g. agents, distributors, even customers).
In government: Are there services you can share with a neighboring town? Open your online event to employees and stakeholders in surrounding areas to promote a larger conversation.
Diamonds in the Rough
In business: Move the good concepts from events and other sources into Idea Central's Portfolio Monitor to develop them further with collaborative input. These ideas have not been selected for direct implementation previously because of some missing component (e.g. cost of resources/raw material or lack of technical solution). People are invited to enter the instance, add input and solve problems, and on a periodic basis an evaluation group reviews the ideas, and promotes improved "diamonds" into formal concept projects.
In government: It's great to have the community add ideas to a big pot, but if nothing is ever implemented, did anything really change? By keeping tabs on an idea's entire lifecycle, voters can get a clear picture of how quickly and how often their representatives are acting on their suggestions.
"If I Had a Million Dollars..."
In business: Discuss what to do with extra money; develop a list of opportunities more broadly to help make better decisions (more options mean better choices).
In government: Identify grant opportunities, or if a grant is administered, pool neighbors to identify which area is in of most need.
New Venture Identification and Development
In business: Define large-scale business opportunities (an ongoing process, usually lead by Corporate Strategy, Business Development or New Ventures groups). Invite wide but selective participation from across the organization.
In government: Where should the next park be located? Or where can land be bought and preserved as conservation space? Leverage the expertise of land management groups and conservation stewards.
Trends and Insights
In business: Gather consumer or market trends and use this as stimuli for employee creativity for new product development, marketing initiatives, R&D, service opportunities, etc. These events started in consumer packaged goods companies, but the trend has now spread to financial service companies that want to delve deeper into customer problems, and understand trends in advance of specific customer needs.
In government: It is ever important to keep up with county, state, provincial, and national topics, which can quickly trickle down to local governments. An Idea Central event to gather public opinion on larger government issues can be more effective than a traditional petition because it will illustrate the variety of views on an issue.