By: Jason Jones

Private companies and public organizations are placing a lot of emphasis on innovation lately. Guilford County is certainly no different. A lot of innovation is happening already thanks to amazing employees throughout the entire organization. But what does it mean to be innovative? Is it something I can do? Why does it matter so much? These are not easy questions to answer but they are definitely important to ask.

In an effort to try to help employees work through some of these difficult questions, the Budget Management and Evaluation departments in Guilford County and the City of Greensboro have come together, with funding from the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, to deliver ansWEr Innovation Labs. During these labs, participants hear first-hand from speakers about tools and techniques to solve problems in creative and collaborative ways, try out new ideas in lab exercises and build professional connections across our organizations. We also explore what innovation really means to us, what our evolving innovation vision is and try to communicate the incredible value of empowering employees to be creative problem solvers.

Our first two labs were a lot of fun, reaching 46 employees across both organizations and resulting in incredibly valuable feedback. We discussed collaborative governance with Dr. Allison Bramwell (Assistant Professor, UNC-Greensboro) in the first lab and generally defined innovation with Dr. Jim Svara (Visiting Professor, School of Government, UNC-Chapel Hill) in the second lab. We also participated in related group activities to apply the concepts we were learning and enjoyed some great lunch conversation.

Our next ansWer Innovation Lab will be February 21, from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM, at the Union Square Campus. We will be discussing Behavioral Economics, and how it might help you in the work you do every day. Behavioral economics is a field of study that combines insights from psychology, judgment, decision making, and economics to generate a more accurate understanding of human behavior. It can be used to solve a wide variety of problems – such as how to improve the diversity of job applications, increase collection on fines and fees, and how to decrease contamination in recycling cans. Ryan Smith, the City of Durham’s Innovation Team project manager and policy innovation fellow at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, will lead the workshop.

Registration is open to ALL EMPLOYEES, lunch will be provided and space is limited. If you are interested in this opportunity, please register online by February 9 to participate.

Please do not worry if you register and space limitations restrict you from participating in the next workshop. We will be offering these every other month and will announce future topics as they become available. We will hold on to your registration and reach out for our next available lab.