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Want cross-functional innovation? Use Tiger Teams, plus more

Saad Bashir, Chief Technology Officer for the City of Seattle shares his thoughts on what’s holding local government innovation back and how to overcome it.

AdministrationWorkforce ManagementBest of 2020

Seattle, WA

United States

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At Govlaunch, we focus a lot on the culture of innovation and how this concept needs to be embraced by all levels of government and across departments in order to drive any real change. With so much emphasis on innovation teams, it may be easy for smaller local governments to dismiss innovation, thinking a room full of experts with this being their core focus is needed for this type of change in government. In episode 19, we talk to Saad Bashir, CTO for City of Seattle to debunk this and to talk about his approach in making everyone an innovator. We dive more into his recent post on what is holding innovation back in the public sector and what public sector leaders specifically should be doing to run a more dynamic and innovative local government.
Having worked in the private sector, and now with over a decade in government, Bashir has a wealth of experience that has shaped his role as a local government leader and his perspective on innovation. As former Chief Information Officer for City of Ottawa and now CTO for City of Seattle, Bashir has taken his private sector experience and applied some best practices when it comes to managing people and shaping a culture to help turn legacy government organizations into innovation-centric organizations.

A better way to run government

Bashir says: “There are systemic issues in how we run public sector enterprises that make it almost impossible for innovation to take deep roots and flourish across a government organization versus championed by a select few ‘innovation leaders’.”
And while these systemic issues he outlines are daily entrenched in all levels of government, he provides meaningful strategies for local government leaders to overcome some of the bureaucracy to create a more nimble, open and innovative organization.
Bashir is a proponent of experimentation, putting people first and making innovation the responsibility of everyone - not tied to a single team or department.
From creation of “digital tiger teams” to bring cross-functional groups of people who come together to solve a problem to results-based management, Bashir is inviting the entirety of his team to be a part of the dialogue and of the solution.
The advice he shares, while catered to the specific challenges the public sector faces, are transferable to any leadership role. He encourages leaders to empower their people, which can involve taking the hit for their failures, and always striving to be best in class, regardless of the size of your project or team. He also acknowledges there are a lot of great ideas and projects already out there and encourages leaders to look at these to help guide your organization.
He says: “I'm the first person who very actively steals other people's ideas. And I make them my own for my context in the organization. And I feel no shame in that. I think that helps the pace of how we can do our jobs.”

To access the mistakes made by local government leaders and more advice for how to overcome them, listen to the full episode with Innovator, Saad Bashir.
You can check out other episodes on the culture of innovation and leadership on the Govlaunch podcast.


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Lindsay Pica-Alfano

Co-founder at Govlaunch



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