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Executive Officer Leadership: Atypical Innovation

This was going to be a quick article. Step one: find a few of the latest whiz-bang gadgets offered to the fire/ems service. Step two: give a few theoretical tidbits about them.

The actuality is that true innovation begins with a concept, not a product. My few quick steps resulted in several hours of browsing the NFA library’s Executive Fire Officer’s database and reading recent research papers.

That’s why I want to draw your attention to some of the current philosophies within our profession and to the possibility that they’ll have a great impact on many organizations over the coming years.

For example, a colleague of mine recently had his work published on the topic of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and how it’s affecting our department in regard to actual dollars. One of the most intriguing aspects of this topic to me is that I have considered some of the financial implications to our agency specific to FMLA; however, I discovered I still had my head in the sand.

This is due to my personal tendency to provide overarching consideration from the perspective of our HR department and the simple fact that we’re required to abide by FMLA. Through the efforts of my colleague, I realized the issue is broken into microeconomic theory and includes innovative and practicable actions we should consider.

Other recent papers that I believe may contribute to atypical innovation address assessments of behavioral health programs and tool development for cost-benefit analysis of financial decision-making processes. From a technology perspective, one focuses on the risks and benefits of an agency implementing text to 911 capabilities within its jurisdiction.

Many other worthwhile topics are also being explored by EFOP students. Some may not be applicable to your jurisdiction; others certainly are. As a leader in your organization, it’s incumbent on you to stay abreast of current trends as well as innovations that may cross over from other professions.

Within the realm of academics, many great minds are studying technological aspects of strategical and tactical decision making to aid us in standardization. There are also many great minds focused on studying very innovative topics at the local level. Taking some of these from paper to further research or action will serve us as force multipliers since the initial work is already complete and freely available to us.

The EFOP at the National Fire Academy continues to poke and prod the minds of some of the fire service’s great talents. Some of the best outputs of the program are available to you through the online library.

The upside is that if you take the time to peruse the EFOP library’s catalogue, you’ll certainly find a thought-provoking topic that someone has researched and gathered enough data to begin a healthy conversation for how their concept may be applied in your agency.

The downside is that it does require a bit of effort on our part to actually seek out this body of work. I encourage you to take at least some of your time each month to see what excellent work is housed in the library.

Innovation isn’t always packaged in the shiniest wrapping and it doesn’t always cost actual money. Sometimes, it’s packaged in the form of research performed by our greatest assets and provides perspectives that may lead us to an innovative solution for a problem we haven’t recognize we can actually solve.


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