Innovation Advisory Board kickoff meeting: five takeaways

The OEI convened the first meeting of our newly formed Innovation Advisory Board in October. The group — consisting of experts in transportation, public policy, innovation and technology and labor policy — worked through a packed agenda to discuss our challenges and opportunities as we continue to build the Office.

We were incredibly lucky to have such a talented group advising us as we seek to drive an innovation agenda at Metro, and we’re grateful for contributions of time and knowledge that we received from each of our Board Members, who provided ideas, insights and constructive criticism. Below is a short summary of what we learned.

1. Innovation can be doing things differently. Innovation can also be doing different things.

Incremental versus systemic and long-term change is a constant struggle. Setting intentions about which you wish to achieve is critical to making strategic decisions about what you will focus on, how to pursue those goals and what structures, processes and measurements to deploy in support. Success may be measured at a later stage, but determining what type of innovation you wish to achieve up front impacts the measurements you should choose. This matters, not just for management purposes, but in terms of how you explain what you’ve accomplished through innovation, and how to replicate it.

2. We can’t be the innovation people (nor should we be).

OEI is seeking to incubate, develop, implement, and model innovations, but its truest successes can only be realized if a culture of innovation is fostered and upheld agency wide. OEI is a department, but extraordinary innovation is within the reach of any ambitious risk taker with an idea, the work ethic and the spirit of collaboration needed to make it reality.

3. People support what they help create.

Innovation is an ideal that many people can latch on to — ensuring that people feel involved is central to building a culture of innovation. This is especially important because very few of our ventures in OEI and at Metro involve only a single department. Involving people in the process of innovation will help garner their support, and that support will not just be for the project, but for the ideal of innovation.

4. At the same time, we can’t wait for support to create.

We have to start somewhere, and we have to be as opportunistic as we are strategic in getting things done. The types of things that we do, and the way that we do them, create a story of innovation that the organizational culture can itself latch on to.

5. Nothing is perfect.

Every venture has an opportunity cost; every focus area has a different means of measurement; every plan is implemented in a different world than the one in which it was created.

Thank you to the Advisory Board Members! They are:

Kome Ajise, Caltrans

Ratna Amin, San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association

Paul D. Curcio, Miralto

Jeremy Dann, USC Business School

Genevieve Giuliano, USC Price and METRANS Transportation Center

Andrew Gonzales, SMART Transportation Division GCA 875

Hasan Ikhrata, Southern California Association of Governments

Kim Kawada, San Diego Association of Governments

Mark Kroncke, Invoked Technologies

Peter Marx, GE Digital

Rani Narula-Woods, Shared Use Mobility Center

Hilary Norton, FAST: Fixing Angelenos Stuck in Traffic

Karen E. Philbrick, Mineta Transportation Institute

Susan Shaheen, UC Berkeley and Transportation Sustainability Research Center

Brian D. Taylor, UCLA Luskin, Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and Institute of Transportation Studies

Peter Temes, Innovation in Large Organizations Institute

Martin Wachs, UCLA Luskin

Richard Wilson, Cal Poly Pomona

Kevin Parsons, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems