Getting an ‘instant return’ on innovation training
Name: Sarita Nair
Title: Chief Administrative Officer
City: Albuquerque, N.M.
After participating in last year’s class of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, Sarita Nair returned to Albuquerque fired up about building a more innovative culture in City Hall. She took what she’d learned, particularly about encouraging thoughtful experimentation, and turned it into a training she’s given to more than 200 city staff.
To make sure the lessons stuck, Nair then asked each department to propose five new ideas for the next budget cycle, including at least one innovation, one idea requiring cross-departmental collaboration, and another that saved money for the city. “We saw an instant return on the training,” she said. “Each department submitted an amazing set of innovative and collaborative ideas.” Now, departments that never worked together are teaming up in exciting ways.
Take services for the city’s elderly population. When the Fire Department’s paramedics respond to a 911 call involving an older person who’s had a fall, they now look around the home for tripping hazards that need removal or places where the person could use a ramp to get around. That information is relayed to the Senior Affairs department, which then works with the Waste Department to make the repairs. The process not only improves efficiency, it cuts down on the number of repeat 911 calls. “It’s a connection that would not have happened without an extra nudge to innovate across silos,” said Nair, who’s already planning something similar for next year’s budget cycle.
“If you’re in a leadership position, make sure you put the weight of your own office behind innovation. Put your own name on the line to support the work.”