Finding a ‘different problem-solving method for the city’

Name: Jason Reisdorfer

Title: Director of Innovation & Technology

City: Sioux Falls, S.D.

During the seven years he led a fast-growing tools business in Sioux Falls, Jason Reisdorfer didn’t think much about local government. That is, until he got a call last year from Mayor Paul TenHaken. The mayor, who’d just jumped from leading his own business to leading City Hall, was looking to boost innovation capacity in the city — and wanted Reisdorfer to build it.

In October, Reisdorfer took charge of Sioux Falls’ Central Services Department, which was responsible for everything from vehicle fleets to IT, and re-oriented it around the mission of helping agencies find new ways to solve old problems.

First up is transportation. To help Sioux Falls improve its transit system, Reisdorfer pulled together a team of 13 people from nine different city departments to meet once a week in an innovation “war room.” They’re people who may not know much about this issue but are agitators about fixing things. “They had to be good innovative minds, strategic thinkers, and high-energy folks,” Reisdorfer said. “Not the sort of people who would say, ‘But this is how we’ve always done it.’”

The transportation team is applying a human-centered design process that started with understanding mobility problems before shifting toward developing and prototyping solutions with residents. “To not jump to solutions is hard,” Reisdorfer said. “But this group is trusting the process. And we’re committed to the fact that this is not just about transit — it’s about finding a different problem-solving method for the city.”

Pro tip:

“Make progress, not perfection. You have to just get started.”