Musical ‘think tank’ sessions spur IT creativity in Ohio

When Ohio’s new state chief information officer realized he needed fresh ideas, his first thought was to pull all the agency CIOs together into a fun environment that would encourage participation.

Every six weeks, Rodgers tells StateScoop in a video interview, he leads a meeting with CIOs for the state’s executive-branch agencies to brainstorm. Using a format that combines music, with Rodgers as DJ, and idea pitches à la the television show Shark Tank, he says they’ve been able to gather hundreds of ideas — some that were “shovel ready” and others that needed a little work, but all that held some form of potential for improving the state’s information technology.

“I wanted to make sure that we were being collaborative in nature and really making sure it was not just a one-way conversation, where I’m up giving them a speech, but I wanted to hear from them as well,” Rodgers said.

Rather than being buttoned-up all the time, he said he wanted to show a more personable, approachable side to his personality as the starting point for enterprise-wide collaboration.

“I have an alter ego. Not many people know this, but I figured this would create the ultimate collaboration environment,” Rodgers said. “I actually DJ-ed the event with custom DJ drops.”

The events have been a success in part because of the format, he said, and in part because he included all the right stakeholders from across the state’s agencies and initiatives, including RecoveryOhio, a mental health and substance use initiative, and the Governor’s Children’s Initiative, a program created in January by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine dedicated to expanding availability of high-quality early childhood health care and education.

Rodgers on cloud computing in state government:

“I fully believe in going to the cloud, however I want to make sure we’re going to the cloud in a uniform, collaborative nature.”

Rodgers on his top priorities:

“IT’s the engines behind the innovation platform we just announced.”

Rodgers on emerging technology:

“You have to embrace it. If you don’t you’re going to get left by the wayside.”

These videos were produced by StateScoop at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ midyear conference in National Harbor, Maryland, in May 2019.