Change Happens at the Edge

As a modern, nimble company working to disrupt an entrenched govtech industry, we’re always looking to partner with local government innovators cultivating positive change in their communities. 

We work to help cities and towns across the country modernize their tools, and in doing so improve the lives of their employees and constituents. Moving the wheels of large institutions is hard, so we are interested in the conditions that support proactive change. 

How does innovation happen within a department or an organization? Across a region, society, or industry?

I was intrigued after recently learning about, author and management consultant, John Hagel’s idea that change happens at the edge. The underlying concept: mainstream anything becomes like a black hole. It consumes what gets close, absorbs all energy, and continues to grow larger.  

The core is where the power has amassed, and it absorbs and conforms most of its surrounding environment. Diversity and innovation cannot thrive in this vacuum, and so existing processes, ideas, and power structures becomes increasingly entrenched.

“Because of the relationship between mass and gravity, this means [black holes] have an extremely powerful gravitational force. Virtually nothing can escape from them—under classical physics, even light is trapped by a black hole.” *

Not only do black holes absorb all surrounding energy, but they also cloud the ability to envision something new. 

“This creates an observational problem when it comes to black holes — scientists can’t “see” them the way they can see stars and other objects in space.”

Over the last couple of decades, the rise of the internet and modern software have disrupted the “black holes” in most industries. With decentralized access to consumers and cheaper scalable platforms, new companies have quickly diversified competition and improved the quality of products and services for the benefit of consumers. 

The Disruption Taking Place Within Govtech

Unfortunately, the public sector (particularly state and local government) has been one of the last areas to benefit from these gains.

Many of the large, entrenched companies that have dominated the govtech industry for the last several decades have become an increasingly large black hole. Despite providing subpar products and services at exorbitant prices, companies like Accela and Tyler Technologies have continued to own the market at the expense of cities and towns across the country.  

Outdated procurement laws, originally designed to provide transparency and accountability around government spending, have not only hindered the growth of new players, but have also provided a continued advantage for the black hole (dinosaur companies that have mastered the art of navigating complex procurement processes). 

Local Government Now Driving Change with Decisions

So how do leaders create change against the gravitational force of the black hole? How do local government innovators and leading govtech companies foster healthy competition that will develop products of the same caliber as consumer software?

Hagel argues that change happens at the edge, or in other words—change happens when leaders move away from the core.

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Hagel argues that change happens at the edge, or in other words—change happens when leaders move away from the core. A small minority of leaders hit the core, and instead of being consumed, they will ricochet off into space to create their own satellite. 

“Sometimes as matter is drawn toward a black hole, it ricochets off the event horizon and is hurled outward, rather than being tugged into the maw. Bright jets of material traveling at near-relativistic speeds are created. Although the black hole itself remains unseen, these powerful jets can be viewed from great distances.”

Safer from the gravitational pull of the black hole core and with clearer vision, these satellites are breeding grounds for innovation. And the successful ones will start amassing energy from the core, bringing the equilibrium into greater balance. 

Your Spend Is Your Vote

Visionaries across the public and private sectors are moving away from this core. Smaller, nimble govtech companies are now leading product development by providing modern, user-friendly software products and services at competitive prices. Municipal innovators are now searching farther and wider, seeking to provide agile, user-centric solutions to their employees and constituents. New government marketplaces and procurement tools are popping up to help connect these groups, and help them build the products that will soon benefit the majority. 

Government officials are starting to bravely invest in these modern, nimble companies, because the risk of investing in yesterday’s technology is starting to outweigh the ‘risk’ of investing in a company that may be newer.

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In a marketplace, your spend is your vote. Government officials are starting to bravely invest in these modern, nimble companies, because the risk of investing in yesterday’s technology is starting to outweigh the ‘risk’ of investing in a company that may be newer. Leaders see the gap between public and private sector services widening, and they know the positive impact that investing in new technologies will have on their communities for years to come. 

To all of the visionaries working to make your corner of the world a little bit better: the time is now. Together, we have the power to build the world we want to live in. 

*source for all quotes: Redd, N. T. (2019, Jul 11). What Are Black Holes? [Web log post]. Retrieved Jul 26 from www.space.com.

Civic Tech, Government Innovation, government software, Government Technology, govtech, Local Government Resources

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