On today’s episode of the Public Impact Podcast, Public Spend Forum Co-Founder and Chair Raj Sharma talks with retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Ward about his approach to innovation, building a culture of trust when it comes to taking risks, and how he changed things up at the Air Force by doing less. Dan is the author of two books, The Simplicity Cycle and FIRE: How Fast, Inexpensive, Restrained and Elegant Methods Ignite Innovation, and is a contributor to Public Spend Forum, you may have read a few of his pieces in the past.

Raj and Dan have a really interesting conversation about how Dan came to discover the power in keeping things simple—as he says, it took him “10 years to become an overnight success story”—how he was able to collaborate with a variety of stakeholders, and how working within constraints actually fosters creativity, rather than hampers outcomes. One of my favorite things Dan said in this episode—and really a mantra I think we could all adopt in our own work—came when Raj asked him for tips on how to implement some of the philosophies in his book, so people can apply them on a day-to-day basis at their jobs:

One of the most important things is that you can’t design anything without revealing your values. And the values conversation and the role of values and the impact of values on our decision-making, on our problem-solving, on our designs is hard to overstate. So if we value complexity, we’re going to build something that’s very complicated. If we value speed, we’re going to move faster. And so these underlying values shape the way we interpret policy, they shape the way we organize our processes and our organizations.

You can find more about Dan Ward at his site, or follow him on Twitter.


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