If you don’t believe technology will alter your work in meaningful ways, you’re in for a severe shock in 5, 10, 20 years. The sooner you can grasp that the digital future is already here, you can embrace these traits and take a leadership role for technology revolution at your organization.

Building a Smart City won’t happen in a vacuum of your IT Department, while the idea is already widespread and accepted your organizational departments need to get on the same path to drive innovation and engagement. Whether you’re directly involved in technology or not, your leadership abilities will directly impact whether or not your organization takes the necessary steps.

What is a Smart City?

There are a lot of definitions thrown around. Basically, a Smart City is one that builds on real-time technology to improve the quality of life and to manage assets. It’s a concept that many municipalities have tried to digest and while some are successfully implementing for the future, others believe it just isn’t for them.

Why do we need Smart Cities?

Your residents have adapted to the ‘new normal’ of customer experience, an omnichannel experience from video conferencing to chat tech support to mobile payments and more, where digital technology drives the entire experience. Their lives have been centered around this technology change. The average resident is on their smartphone 4 hours per day. Local governments that fail to keep pace with technology trends will begin to lose touch with residents.

#1 Openness to Innovation

Don’t allow yourself to wait. It’s too easy to tell yourself that you can’t implement these types of culture changes once you’re the City Manager. Your sphere of influence may be little but start in your own department.  Start small; not all innovation has to be disruptive, instead, you can look to adopt continuous, incremental innovation.

If you ensure that there is clarity around your vision and ideal outcomes with results orientation, you can allow your staff a willingness to experiment, make mistakes, and ultimately pivot. Smart Cities won’t be created with a single, broad stroke. If you’re someone that embraces change and a willingness to learn, you’ll be prepared as organizations come to terms with the realization that technology will infuse into every aspect of operations.

#2 Committed to Civic Engagement

We are the first to admit that “Civic Engagement” has become a nebulous term. In the early days of Rock Solid, we rode that wave and realize it’s time for a new definition of civic engagement.

As leaders, it rests on your shoulders to preach that it is not your residents’ responsibility to initiate action. Yes, every community has those loyal, devoted followers who take action locally and should be praised and acknowledged.

But, forward-thinking government organizations will begin to use targeted, segmented direct approaches to engage all citizens. And this mindset requires an approach that scales up; you have to believe in the role technology will have in allowing you to make your experience with citizens both more personal and more efficient. This is the new form of civic engagement.

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How many times have you seen a local government in which citizen engagement happens sporadically throughout the year, and then they wonder why people aren’t engaged? It has to be a consistent, methodical drip at all times. Too many times, I’ve heard organizations say that they can’t enough citizens to participate in a 6 week public survey. My response is “What did you do the other 46 weeks of the year to pull in those residents?”

When we talk about engagement it is not just with citizens but with the entire ecosystem, city workers, businesses, tourists, etc. As Rodger Lea eloquently states “Smart Cities: An Overview of the Technology Trends Driving Smart Cities

While it may be obvious that cities need to engage and listen to their citizens, it is surprising how few channels exist for meaningful dialogue between cities and their citizens

#3 Bias Toward Action

Your own personal bias toward action can start on a small scale. Start by embracing that uncomfortable feeling that rises up in us all when we hear that voice inside our head question “if we’re going too far”. Become comfortable with becoming uncomfortable. Ask someone who has a bias toward action to mentor you. Or hire a coach for $15/week for 8 weeks to help you push yourself farther.

Read more details on “3 Leadership Traits to Help You Build a Smart City” at the ELGL blog.

Originally written by Rock Solid (previously CitySourced) for the ELGL.org “There’s an App for That” Series.