THE BLOG
12/04/2013 01:14 pm ET Updated Feb 03, 2014

NYC Government -- A Century-old Hierarchical Culture in a Millennial World

In an article published in The New York Times on November 9 titled "Embracing the Millennials' Mind-Set at Work," Tom Agan offers a refreshing point of view that brings to light the necessary changes in culture that large corporations are undergoing and must continue to embrace.

"With its emphasis on free-flowing information, the millennial generation is highly innovative -- and thus has much to offer to corporate culture."

Large corporations are beginning to understand that the open, flat, and collaborative culture that millennials­ -- those born from roughly 1980 to 2000 -- are accustomed to is not a liability but the only way to innovate and thrive in the 21st century.

Let's hope our next mayor, Mr. De Blasio, is listening.

The New York City Mayor's Office and the overwhelming majority of its agencies currently have a stiff hierarchical managerial culture that hampers innovation and poses critical challenges to our next mayor. Mayor-elect De Blasio will find himself servicing a world-class innovation hub in a city with 300,000 city employees working under a management culture inherited from the La Guardia's years.

This deep-rooted managerial and hierarchical fabric from prior decades survived three Bloomberg terms by becoming a conduit for the administration's strong top-down focus on metrics and efficiency, which permeated through the deputy mayors to the small army of agency commissioners. And although the Bloomberg leadership brought an open bull-pen culture to the Mayor's Office and operational discipline to the top-most positions in New York City, it bypassed an official effort to implement an urgently needed bottom-up citywide innovation program involving its employees.

Bloomberg's initiatives were successful despite the currently obsolete work culture of the large body of city employees, who work in over 70 agencies. Mayor-elect De Blasio will benefit from the previous administration's institutional improvements at the top-most level, but his second term (or chances of one) will greatly suffer if a culture of innovation is not urgently sown into the government's fabric early on during his first term.

The past decade was forgiving to the rate of progress of the New York City government's as the gap between corporations and government efficiency standards, although far apart, was narrow compared to that of today. Furthermore, during the past two decades, the government's ability to generate and implement innovative solutions was held up to the standards of the top three mature yet innovatively-constrained sectors in the city at the time: finance, real estate, and insurance. Today, technology is the second-most important sector in New York City (after finance) and the sector with the most promise to allow the city to hold onto its standing among the top cities in the world. This means that, over the next decade, the New York City government will be held up to the high standards of the technology sector. Over the next two terms, the mayor-elect will not only be held responsible for maintaining the city's top-down efficiency discipline, but also to retrain its workforce and transform, from the bottom up, its work culture to match the 21st century city government required to lead NYC this decade and ones to come.