Gov. Greitens Invites New Voices to the Innovation Table

by Andrew Smith | Sep 06, 2017

Four months ago, I wrote a blog entry entitled “Governor Greitens Deserves a Seat at the Innovation Table.”  At the time, there was a fair amount of anxiety in the St. Louis innovation ecosystem over the future of the Missouri Technology Corporation (MTC), the primary state funding vehicle for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial support organizations over the last 10 years. Gov. Greitens’ budget proposed $5 million for funding MTC while the legislature was contemplating zeroing it out altogether.  The final number came in at $2.5 million.

Yesterday, the Governor’s Innovation Task Force released its report, a 100+ page document that I’m confident will serve as the gold standard for joint public-private problem solving for other states.

The report was the result of one of the most collaborative, thoroughgoing processes I’ve ever witnessed.  Thousands of Missourians took surveys, voted, participated in roundtables, and offered their input.  Its scope is truly comprehensive, taking into account everything from K-12 curriculum reform to deregulation to alternate funding mechanisms for entrepreneurs and support organizations.  The report presents a clear, detailed picture of where Missouri stands today, what strategic advantages we enjoy, and what challenges we face in the future.  With a research team led by a former McKinsey partner as well as the head of Accenture’s St. Louis office, it stands up to the very best work being done on this subject anywhere in the world.

Some may complain that it did not “throw down the gauntlet” by offering specific recommendations or identifying a mythical silver bullet, but this was never the goal.  The governor told the steering committee in June that he wasn’t interested in a watered-down, consensus-oriented white paper.  What he wanted was rock-solid research and an unbiased presentation of the best options, even if some of them conflicted with each other. And that’s exactly what he got.

The challenge going forward will be to evaluate these options and decide which ones to prioritize.  That is no small task.  Different players will have different views depending on their needs and their roles.  We saw that clearly throughout the summer.

And that really goes to the heart of the challenge facing Missouri; we are a fragmented state.  We have fault lines along geography (KC vs. STL), culture (rural vs. urban), industry, and so on.  If nothing else, the process this summer helped bridge some of those divides by getting people out of their comfort zones.  It forced people to think in terms of what is best for Missouri—all of Missouri—rather than personal best interests. That’s progress. Like it or not, we are all in this together, and we can’t reach our goals without helping our neighbors reach theirs.

I’m incredibly proud of the work of the Task Force. Gov. Greitens not only took a seat at the table, he expanded the table to include voices that haven’t been heard.  This is the essence of collaborative leadership and it is the right way to get to the right answers on innovation and other important matters.