by Suzanne Boyd, Founder & CEO of Anthro-Tech
In my 25 years of partnering with government teams across various projects, I’ve uncovered three distinct accelerators that set apart successful initiatives from unsuccessful ones: collaboration, Human-Centered Design (HCD), and innovation. When combined, these accelerators create effective solutions that benefit both citizens and government agencies. In this post, we’ll delve into each accelerator and explore real-world examples from Washington State projects that embody these principles.
Accelerator #1: Collaboration
Collaboration, the first accelerator, is the foundation of successful initiatives. In my experience, the most exceptional work is accomplished by high-functioning teams that trust and respectfully challenge each other. These teams are diverse, bringing together individuals with different backgrounds, skill sets, and points of view. They work together toward a shared vision of success, overcoming limited resources, budgets, and time.
Collaboration within government initiatives means breaking down barriers between departments, agencies, and vendors. It involves putting personal territories aside and focusing on a common goal or North Star that guides everyone, even when faced with competing priorities. This kind of synergy doesn't just solve problems; it delivers excellent results.
Real World Examples of Successful Collaboration
The Washington State Health and Human Enterprise Services Coalition, where multiple government agencies and vendors are working together to build an integrated eligibility and enrollment solution.
The Washington State Department of Licensing successfully redesigned their website by promoting a shared vision and encouraging collaboration between departments.
Accelerator #2: Human-Centered Design
Human-Centered Design (HCD) is the second accelerator that empowers successful government initiatives. This approach focuses on designing products, services, and systems that prioritize the needs, behaviors, and experiences of the people who use them.
HCD begins with thorough research directly involving the intended customers. The first step is understanding the customers’ goals, fears, motivations, and contextual factors. After identifying these issues, designers can create design concepts, test prototypes, and make changes based on feedback.
This collaborative process leads to accessible and usable solutions that accommodate diverse abilities, languages, cultures, genders, ages, races, incomes, and other differences. Moreover, HCD fosters teamwork, problem-solving, and innovation.
Real-World Examples Of Successful HCD Implementation
The Washington State Department of Transportation involved over 20,000 people, including those with disabilities and underserved groups, to transform their website from an organizational-centric structure to a customer-centered design.
The Washington State Health Care Authority is incorporating customer research, prototyping, and testing into their projects.
Accelerator #3: Innovation
Innovation identifies new opportunities, generates creative solutions, and transforms them into practical outcomes. It can manifest as product innovation, process innovation, or business model innovation.
An innovative mindset requires risk-taking, uncertainty, and challenging the status quo. Leaders must create an environment where team members feel safe to fail and explore new ideas, products, or processes. Innovation is not just about cutting-edge technologies; it can also involve repurposing existing technologies, making incremental improvements, or even stopping certain practices.
Real World Examples Of Innovation
During the pandemic, the City of Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections designed a virtual service desk, offering critical permitting information through chat, email, or phone.
Government agencies are investing in new roles such as product owners, customer experience professionals, and equity and diversity specialists, encouraging discussion and creative problem-solving within their organizations.
Looking Toward the Future
Government initiatives are poised for dynamic transformation, driven by new technologies and evolving customer expectations. As citizens become more accustomed to seamless digital experiences in their daily lives, they expect government services to follow suit. Collaboration, Human-Centered Design, and innovation will be pivotal in adapting to these changes.
Emerging technologies such as AI and data analytics offer opportunities for agencies to revolutionize their operations and enhance their services. HCD will remain essential for tailoring services to citizens’ needs and preferences. Moreover, the demand for innovation will only intensify as citizens expect solutions that streamline processes and make it less frustrating to interact with the government.