Live Innovation from the White House

Live Innovation from the White House

There are some interesting lessons for innovators from the White House’s approach to the State of the Union address airing tonight.

This administration practices deep listening better than many innovators, and they will be doing more of it in a variety of ways following tonight’s speech. Imagine if similar opportunities were afforded to your customers to give you insight and advice on how to improve your product or service.

The White House is offering an enhanced State of the Union experience over several days following the President’s address. This is live action, paired with active engagement and deep listening, involves senior advisors and the President. Before I review the lesson for innovators, here’s a portion of the upcoming lineup.


  • 9:00 p.m.: Watch the enhanced version of the speech that features graphics, data and stats that highlight the issues the President is discussing on Use the Twitter hashtag #SOTU to discuss the speech live.
  • 10:00 p.m.: Immediately following the speech, pose your questions to a live panel at the White House. Senior advisors will answer your questions about the President’s address submitted via Twitter (use #WHChat and #SOTU), Facebook, Google+, and an in-person audience of Tweetup participants.

The remaining three days are full days of open Office Hours designed to hear from different target groups (Veterans, Women, Latinos, Small Business Owners) as well as to generate dialogue with key government policy makers (Health Care, Energy, Jobs) .

Thursday Office Hours Schedule

  • 10:00 a.m. Veterans: Matt Flavin, White House Director of Veterans and Wounded Warrior Policy
  • 11:00 a.m. LGBT: Miriam Vogel, White House Senior Policy Advisor and Gautam Raghavan, White House Associate Director for Public Engagement
  • 12:00 p.m. Women: Racquel Russell, Special Assistant to the President for Mobility and Opportunity and Avra Siegel, White House Deputy Executive Director for the Council on Women and Girls
  • 1:00 p.m. Seniors: Jeanne Lambrew, Deputy Assistant to the President for Health Policy and Nick Papas, Assistant Press Secretary

The inspiration for business innovators is to consider involving a range of stakeholders across your company to listen to customers and deeply understand their relevant interests and concerns regarding your brand. The technology exists to make this simple. Yet, it is more typical for companies to silo innovation to those who are supposed to generate “the next big idea”. The consumer listening is also restricted to the innovation silo. In this White House example, we see the government acknowledging that innovation can come from (and should come from) all departments and therefore, all departments have a need to listen to the public and get to know their issues and points of view.

I had the opportunity to participate in The Startup America Partnership, event launched by the White House in response to the President’s call to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses and create jobs. This same level deep of listening was an integral part of the initiative. The point was to open up the dialogue and explore possibilities with opinion leaders and educators.

Business innovators should be creating opportunities to listen deeply and engage meaningfully in discussions with devoted and new customers to create a richer corridor of customer information through your company. At the same time, you will have created a forum to share higher quality information for feedback, such as the session described above on Tuesday at 9pm.

If your practice is to listen to customers through focus groups, you should seriously recalibrate the level of listening you are doing and open up to hear more. Your business will thrive as a result because relevance to the customer will be deeply understood.

(Agenda source: White House Update)

Required reading for Congress and Obama if they are serious about fostering innovation

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Donna Sturgess is the President and Co-founder of Buyology Inc and former Global Head of Innovation for GlaxoSmithKline. Her latest book is Eyeballs Out: How To Step Into Another World, Discover New Ideas, and Make Your Business Thrive

Donna Sturgess




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