Innovate ITD campaign wants your thoughts and ideas

If you have ever had a hunch, inkling or idea after hearing someone else talk about their own ideas, or if you have thought to yourself, "if only they would tweak this or change that," then you have had an innovative idea.

Sometimes these hunches come from observing something completely different than the problem being solved. Sometimes they come over coffee with a friend while discussing a crazy new idea they tried at work but failed…and you come up with a thought to make it succeed.

"In ITD, we have 1,700 employees. If each of our employees has only one hunch, that means we have 1,700 hunches out there that have an opportunity to collide with another hunch and potentially be a breakthrough idea," ITD Chief Administrative Officer Char McArthur told the Idaho Transportation Board Wednesday.

"Innovate ITD" is a new campaign sponsored by the Innovative Business Practices (IBP) team meant to encourage innovative thinking and a flow of fresh ideas from throughout the department. The effort will recognize those who contribute ideas and energy to help the agency work smarter, better and more efficiently.

The IBP team is one of four Senior Leadership Teams focused on the department's strategic goals to ensure ITD becomes the best transportation department in the country.

"Innovation brings exciting change energy to the organization that keeps it vibrant and meaningful," McArthur explained. "An innovative culture delivers wins for customers, and the organization thrives on its own success. Simply improving something is not innovation. If I learn to type faster, I improve my productivity, but nothing was innovated, I merely improved."

McArthur said that having an idea is not innovation – creating something new is also not innovation. She told the board that there are times when one must solve a problem, like the astronauts on Apollo 13, where it was do-or-die for them.

"High-pressure situations can often generate innovative thinking and breakthrough ideas," she said "What we need to do is put our existing ideas together in different ways to create new value for ITD customers.

"The question we asked ourselves is how do we encourage this collision of ideas? More importantly, how do we encourage the collision of ideas that help us achieve our strategic goals?"

IBP team member Dave Tolman, ITD controller, highlighted an example of innovation submitted by Karen Merrick in the Right-of-Way section who looked for a solution to a cumbersome payment-processing problem for large-dollar transactions. By partnering with the financial services team they came up with an electronic processing solution that reduced both teams' time on task, resulting in reduced risk and cost.

"This is a great example of two teams working together to solve a problem with an innovative solution," Tolman said. "The IBP team wants to foster more of this type of collaborative effort and results."

McArthur said the plan "is to count and recognize the existing efforts. We believe that the simple act of measuring the existing efforts will stimulate more. We know that what gets measured gets done."

"Innovation can be as simple as connecting the dots or connecting the minds. With more employees interacting and asking why, ITD has so much potential," said IBP team member Pauline Davis, ITD graphic artist.

The IBP team plans to measure and track two things:
1. The number of innovative ideas that are submitted to the IBP team – by group.
2. The number of "WINS" an innovative idea generated. A win is something that resulted in media recognition, a significant cost savings or customer service enhancement.

"Recording efforts on a scoreboard by reporting groups will encourage a competitive spirit" explained McArthur. The team intends to count the ideas submitted, whether they are implemented or not, or successful or not.

"We recognize that it takes a lot of attempts to generate wins, and practice is the best way to get better," she said. "We want to make sure everyone in ITD knows it's okay to try. Even if their idea is not the right one at the right time, it may trigger another innovation."

ITD has already experienced solid improvements from efforts that have generated cost reductions or customer-service improvements leading to a smaller, smarter and better-paid workforce. Ed Bala, D-5 district engineer and IBP team member has seen the D-5 complement go from 169 to 153 without an adverse impact to performance metrics. "The reason for this is the D-5 staff has been aggressive at innovation," explained Bala.

More effective winter scheduling, better anti-icing/deicing materials, risk-based contracting models and improved purchasing procedures are a few of the innovations that have resulted in the 10 percent productivity gain.

"The only way ITD is going to be able to become smaller and better paid is through innovating our business practices, and I think we have the talent pool here to do it," emphasized Bala.

The IBP team is working on creating opportunities for employees to be rewarded through a variety of means, ranging from public mention, to certificates or even bonuses. The team also will look to celebrate results in forums such as the Transporter, leadership summits, board reports and employee meetings.

All employees are encouraged to submit their innovative ideas to The IBP team will review and tabulate the results and report back to the organization, the leadership team and the board.

Published 2-21-14