Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hanging out at Harvard

Not your usual view of the Student Union, I'm hanging out this morning at the Harvard Business School. An amazing decor and beautiful surroundings, a rare moment for the History grad at the U.

Today, I'm participating in a roundtable discussion on Innovation in Government hosted by the famous and yet humble Professor Clayton M. Christensen, aka my older brother.  The discussion of innovation in government has too often centered on Private vs Public delivery of service, yet one or the other, really doesn't provide a compelling solution to costs.  In fact, if you look at a lot of the Federal Contracts for providing services once provided by the public sector, I would venture to guess, it costs us more except when you decide to cut its funding, it's much simpler to send contract employees off packing, than Federal employees.  Even my own city, Salt Lake City, recently went out to bid it's garbage and reclycle service and it was less expensive for us to provide it ourselves.  We obviously don't have the corporate overhead and we've been doing it a while, so much of our support infrastructure is in place.  The real question at hand is whether or not either side is truly motivated to find a simpler or cheaper model, which we sometimes call affectionately in our family, disruptive innovation (thanks to my older brother Clayton).

As I look through the attendee list, it is a little daunting to wonder my own contribution, but I also know that I bring 15 years of public service and a variety of experiences that I believe can contribute to the important dialogue.  Last evening as we discussed my brother's model on why our economy hasn't rebounded as it has in the past, it really became clear why government hasn't moved forward, yet are faced with some of the most daunting challenges in the last 50 years in terms of cost, demand and ability to provide the historic services we have come to expect.

I expect to learn much today, but the thing I've learned perhaps most importantly of all, here at the Harvard Business School is that recycle base napkins are not as absorbant or have the same capacity of normal napkins.  Yes, I spilled my orange juice in the student eating area and had to make at least two trips back to the napkin dispenser.

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