Innovation, Government, Sustainability, and Project Management

book-ISWe recently had a unique opportunity to see the United States’ former CTO (Chief Technical Officer), Aneesh Chopra, discuss his book, “Innovative State” (see image – click on it to go to Chopra’s dedicated site).

We also got to briefly discuss our book, Green Project Management with him.

Turns out, Mr. Chopra’s dad is a PMP(R)-Credentialed project manager.  So there is a strong connection there.  Also, in interviews with the author we’ve heard, he frequently refers to the importance of project management – good PM practices, that is – to government projects, such as healthcare.gov.  In that case, he says, the project was lacking good PM practices.  Evidently.  But there are a couple of major points that are made in this book as well as in TED talks and other interviews with Chopra.

In this blog post, we’ll focus on one: Open Data.  This is Chapter 5 in the book, by the way.

Not from Chapter 5, but appropriate to the subject, is a great quote from UC Berkeley professor Henry Cheesborough, “before you can effectively innovate in any open way beyond the boundary of your own firm, you have to become more open internally within your own firm”.  We like that quote because we have been huge proponents of “LinkedIn”/”Facebook”-like communities inside companies for their communities of project managers and have see the benefits they reap in terms of sharing project wisdom.

What is fascinating about the chapter on Open Data, is that it begins with Thomas Jefferson.  But not Thomas Jefferson the President, Thomas Jefferson the weather nut.  He was a meticulous record-keeper when it came to meteorology.  Read the chapter for more detail but the funny thing is, when Chopra is talking about open data, climate (and by extension sustainability) was the driver even in this example from the 1770s.

The book goes on to describe the collaboration with French ministries, the application of the telegraph and eventually the internet to weather data, and the formation of the National Weather Bureau and National Weather Service.  But the most important point is that the multibillion dollar industry around weather (think Weather.com, your local TV station’s glitzy weather forecast) is all based around a single open data set provided by weather.gov.  The point?  The connection?

Project managers trying to make sustainability a central theme to their project offices, to their project management communities, have the same need for information, education, wisdom, knowledge, whatever you want to call it.  And we think that Open Data is appropriate at this stage for the collaboration of organizations working in this area.  Just as there is a multibillion dollar industry around weather, there is enough monetization to go around in terms of making project management a more triple-bottom-line oriented discipline.   And this is without considering the altruistic nature of making project managers a more long-term-thinking bunch.  The message, to our colleagues in the area of project management and sustainability is simply this: consider buying in to Aneesh Chopra’s idea of Open Data for the benefit it brings us collectively and to our discipline holistically.

If any of this intrigues you at all, please watch this free video where Aneesh Chopra talks about Open Data and Open Innovation, and consider how this could help promote what needs to be a stronger intersection of sustainability and project management: