The Dubai government excellence program fosters innovation in the governmental sector. Their recent conference attracted Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and over 500 top governmental officials from Dubai and throughout United Arab Emirates and the Middle East for a two day exchange of best practices and creative solutions to common issues. I was fortunate to be asked to speak on the topic of “Innovation is Everybody’s Business.”

Each year a team of outside experts select the final winners from idea submissions, including one for most creative employee, who submit a description of their innovative idea. The role of DGEP goes much further than the award scheme: the team is tasked with initiating key projects to develop government entities in Dubai such as the Dubai Government Customer Complaints System, Dubai Knowledge Exchange Teams, and Dubai Government Excellence Service Program.

According to Dr. Zeyad El Kahlout, administrator of the program, DGEP is the first comprehensive program for governmental excellence in the world. “In 14 years of its existence, this program has grown to be the force behind improvements of the public sector. It propagated a spirit of competition not known by governmental departments before. All managers, officials, and employees seek to compete to provide the best and win one of the awards.”

One reward is the opportunity to travel to other countries to benchmark excellence. Thus, one team of managers visited Dallas Fort Worth airport and brought back ideas in a variety of areas. Another team, upon visiting the Netherlands, came up with a way for visitors to apply for visas using their smartphones. The conference spurred development of an idea management system for all government employees to submit ideas. Such innovations improve customer service, enhance responsiveness, cut costs, and improve morale. One innovation in the Dubai Water and Electrical system saved USD $7 million in its first year.