Can Cities Manage Disruptive Technology?
“More than ever in history, a successful city thrives on the kind of disruption new technology brings,” said New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio last week, but the sentiment has been expressed by many public officials, particularly when they are trying to establish their place’s bona fides as a hub of innovation. But what happens when disruptive technology or business models (Uber, Lyft, AirBnB, General Assembly) meet highly regulated industries (taxi cabs, hotels, education)? How do public officials manage disruption?
Design thinking could help the purposely change-averse parts of the public sector, disruptive businesses (or any businesses, really), and citizens find common ground. Design thinking is a process with many definitions but a few agreed upon steps: define a problem or question; observe potential users to see what they really do and need; use models and pictures to envision solutions; build prototypes and quickly test them to weed out failures before they are locked in and rolled out (healthcare.gov, anyone?); constantly learn and adjust. The approach is messy, collaborative, and, at its best, inspires a spirit of co-creation. In a traditional regulatory approach, by contrast, interactions are tightly structured and one-way, and the resulting regulations are fixed and often cumbersome.
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