City of Hillsboro's Eureka! Challenge

by the City of Hillsboro, OR for the TLG 2019 Innovation Showcase program

Dec 19, 2018

Theme: Extensive Internal Collaboration

We created something we call the Eureka! Challenge to allow high-performing employees the opportunity to temporarily step out of their normal jobs and try to solve larger issues which either directly or indirectly affect citizens through either City performance or City service delivery.

Five to seven employees at a time are given a month away from their normal job duties to serve on a short-term innovation team. The employees partner with City departments to research, ideate, prototype, and recommend changes to the organization. Those recommendations are then owned by the department. Team members periodically assist with implementation as needed.

Quantum Leap:  To our knowledge, no existing innovation teams follow this high-intensity, short horizon team model. During our research into innovation teams, Bloomberg Philanthropies graciously allowed us access to their consulting group to discuss innovation models. Their comment: the time we allocated our participants likely wouldn’t be enough. The combination of speed and thoroughness with which our teams move is unprecedented. 

Changed processes:  We had no dedicated resource available to focus on some key issues and we didn’t have the typical year researching an issue before moving on to ideation, so we changed our approach. By focusing our efforts on issues where the team already has a strong understanding, we compress the investigation phase. We focus on describing the issue using design thinking tools, benchmarking other organizations facing similar problems, and then dive deeply into root causes before quickly transitioning to ideation.

Stretching boundaries: The process is both exhausting and exhilarating for team members. The intensity of the experience forges bonds between members and those with whom we interact. The handoff between the team and executive staff bypasses the traditional reporting structure with its inherent delays and gets the best ideas, piloted and in front of decision makers in 30 days.

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