The Idaho Transportation Dept. (ITD) in Boise was recently named a finalist for Idaho Innovative Company of the Year by the Idaho Technology Council.
ITD is one of three finalists for the honor. The winner will be announced on Oct. 25 in Boise during the technology council’s Hall of Fame dinner.

“It is a notable accomplishment by a state agency competing in a private-sector arena,” says ITD Chief Administrative Officer Charlene McArthur.
Last year’s winner in the innovation competition was Micron Technology Inc., which posted $16.2 billion in revenue in 2015.

ITD is challenged by an annual funding shortfall in the hundreds of millions of dollars. But Director Brian Ness has led the department to operate more like a business, and in 2014 ITD launched a strategy to engage its employees to find solutions to everyday problems. The employee-driven effort is called “Innovate ITD!”

Rather than rely on the brainpower of a select group of leadership-level people, ITD is harnessing the creativity of all 1,500 employees statewide. Employees at every level are encouraged to submit ideas for time and money savings and how to make processes more efficient. From there, employees work to implement the best ideas that will have a measurable impact.

The results so far: 405 ideas for improvement have been implemented statewide. Savings and efficiency improvements amounting to $2 million have stretched the money that can be applied to Idaho roads, bridges and delivering improved transportation services.

ITD employee-initiated and reported innovations have also saved more than 66,000 labor hours of contractor and employee time across the state. Of the reported innovations, nearly 150 are customer-service improvements.

“Innovation is the most constructive way to change and get better,” says Ness. “We do not reject ideas. Rather, we empower employees to look for innovation in all we do from basic, yet effective, process improvements to the most creative ideas.”

“I think ITD stood out in the mind of the judges because what we are doing—innovating at the roots of the organization—are things that many in private industry are striving to achieve,” McArthur says.