Inside out: Internal Ideation


Depicted is a poster that hangs on our door after our internal ideation session.

As we continue to advance our infrastructure innovation efforts we are collecting ideas from experts. These experts could be leaders in research, pipe manufacturers, or department commissioners. The foremost experts on Syracuse infrastructure, though, don't always have the opportunity to speak up and voice their opinion. The Department of Public Works (DPW) and Department of Water (Water) workers who are on the ground making repairs everyday know our city's systems better than anyone else.

So, a couple of weeks ago, we hosted a workshop for a few hours just for them. The purpose: to get a better understanding of the work that they do and the ideas that they have to improve the City of Syracuse. The workshop was broken into two breakout sections to try to elicit a variety of creative ideas.

First section: Divide attendees by department (DPW, Water, Department of Engineering)

Second section: Divide attendees by job position  (laborers, crew leaders, and superintendents and commissioners)

Within each breakout section, there was: pulse time, including an open dialogue to understand some of the inner workings of the infrastructure related departments, jobs, and perceptions. active ideation through both open dialogue and an anonymous activity that allowed workers to provide ideas without necessarily tying themselves to their ideas or suggestions.

We gained a lot of valuable insight, and realized that in order for our work to succeed we need buy-in from the men and women who are working on Syracuse’s infrastructure systems everyday. We are going to continue to meet with them, bounce ideas off of them, and work hand-in-hand to improve Syracuse's infrastructure.

Some of their initial suggestions included:

  • Adjusting protocols and procedures to allow for improved project management. 
  • A system that would allow for construction coordination across departments and utilities
  • Rewarding or incentivising hard work
  • Using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to plan and track projects throughout the city
  • Switching to digital work orders that could be accessed through a tablet while employees are on a job site
  • Automatic reporting and entry of work orders into a digital database that tracks all city projects The Innovation Playbook, calls these individuals initiative owners, and we realize that it is important for the men and women who will be responsible for implementing infrastructure changes to believe in the initiatives that move forward.

To get a deeper understanding of the work, Sam and Addison are going to be trading in their office clothes for work boots and heading out with the DPW and Water crews. This will not only allow us to better ideate, but will also provide us with the opportunity to continue to gain insight from the people working on the street. We look forward to sharing this experience with you in the next couple of weeks.