Ideas & Insights

How About Your Own Version of the US Digital Service?

There’s a piece in Quartz (17 Feb) on the US Digital Service (USDS), also described as “Obama’s stealth start-up” or “Peace Corps for nerds”. Essentially, it’s a White House start up staffed by volunteers from some of America’s most innovative companies.

USDS presents an interesting concept – a small team (for the whole of US government, the team is currently 200 people in size) whose task is to improve your company’s products and way of working. This is not R&D. This is not about making things better for your consumers. This is about making your business better and more efficient.

The purpose of it all is reflected in sentiment from a different world power.

After his most recent visit to Silicon Valley, the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, shared that “[Due to new technology] “the workflow has to change, the way you analyse problems has to change, the way you define your mission has to change”.” (TODAY, 18 Feb)

This idea does not just apply to countries, but business in general.

The word often used is ‘disrupt’, a word that comes to mind is ‘hack’, but I think these terms are not quite accurate. These words, and ‘transformation’, get thrown around without regard of how much time, effort and money it takes to re-work legacy systems and implement new ones. Companies need to keep ticking. Tweaking processes can be expensive, especially if they’re not guaranteed to be perfect at first go.

So why not a group whose focus is to make things better and make the company money (through savings and efficiency)? It would be a working group, or an internal think-tank that would have to be given the freedom and the mandate to think outside the box. Be fearless to say – “we can do this better”.


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