Technology has changed how we shop, travel, watch television and communicate.
Yet, for all the sectors embracing technology, government can sometimes lag behind.
“Part of this is simple human nature: government officials become personally invested in their past decisions,” explains internet entrepreneur Kalev Leetaru, who founded his first company as an 8th grader. “New and disruptive innovations that might cast doubt on the wisdom of those past decisions are viewed as a personal threat to their careers.”
At Moulton Niguel Water District, we’re keenly aware that every government agency, ours included, is susceptible to this trap of stale ideas and static thinking. We ward off complacency by recognizing that it usually starts with the phrase: But, that’s how we’ve always done it. We welcome any new ideas — even if they challenge past decisions — that help us better serve the best interests of our ratepayers and the environment. We’ve adopted a culture that embraces creativity, encourages innovation and, above all else, recognizes that we have plenty to learn from the whizzes in the private sector.
Government innovation starts with collecting good data — to understand how well we’re doing and where we can improve. Sometimes, data can reveal counter-intuitive findings. For example, during the state’s drought emergency, our district was one of only two agencies in the state exempted from two-day-per-week watering restrictions. Why? We knew from past experience that these types of restrictions didn’t work for our customers. In 2009, our district implemented the two-day-per-week watering approach, and after a year and a half, found no reduction in water use.
That didn’t mean our agency had a free pass on water conservation. Instead, we used data to concentrate our efforts in the right places, where our customers could improve their water efficiency. Roughly 60 percent of all inefficient water use is associated with outdoor irrigation….