• June 2020

Five questions with Mike Grigsby


Mike Grigsby started his role as Director of Innovation and Technology for the City of Sioux Falls in April. He previously worked in the public service sector in Kansas City for 13 years and for two years with Cisco Systems, Inc. overseeing Smart+Connected Communities practice for North America. He currently serves as an Advisor for University Innovation Fellows at William Jewell College and on the IoT Advisory Committee with CompTIA. Mike and his wife Mara have three children and two grandchildren.

Q: What attracted you to Sioux Falls and your position with the City?

A: Sioux Falls is my wife’s hometown; I’ve been visiting the city and watching its growth and progress for nearly twenty years. The progressive nature of the city and its incredibly stable position is what drew me to this opportunity. I have worked with numerous cities across the country and very few are as poised to capitalized on the opportunities in the coming years as Sioux Falls. I believe the city will stand as a marquee example of what the new American City will look like in the years ahead.

Q: How do you approach challenges?

A: My approach has changed over the years to consider the macro as well as the micro-components. I try to view challenges holistically and think of the end first, then work backward to identify the steps to achieve it. I also think in terms of use cases, looking to address as many challenges as possible with each solution. Thinking in this way reminds me that each challenge is made up of multiple components that can be addressed individually or collectively and helps set realistic goals for outcomes.

Q: Name a tool could you not live without.

A: The smart phone may be the single greatest invention in the past twenty years. The ability to literally carry the world in your pocket still blows my mind. Accessing information the way you want, when you want, in the format you want cannot be understated. It is a portal to limitless opportunity. No tool, however, does not come without pros and cons. Using this amazing tool the right way is what will unlock countless doors to the future, yet there are still equity divides that we need to work to bridge in order to help as many people as possible learn how to use this incredible key to unlock their own bright futures.

Q: What are you reading right now?

A: I’m re-reading Abundance: The Future is Better than You Think, by Peter H. Diamonds. The book was written in 2012 and gave a glimpse into ways that technology was shaping our environments then and a forecast of how it would continue to shape our future. What I find amazing is how accurate some of the predictions have been. Others may not be a firm reality yet, but are well on their way. What I love most about this book is the re-positioning of the impact technology has on our society, and the emphasis the author places on using technology as a means to augment our human experiences, not as a replacement of them.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you have received?

A: One of my mentors told me to “think with my imagination and not just my memory.” That has served me so well over the years. It helps to perpetually look at things with fresh eyes. It also reminds me that no idea is dumb. While not every idea materializes the way we initially envision it, treating every idea as seed that can grow into something amazing and useful is a great outlook. I have had my share of “successful failures” that did not meet my initial expectations, but spurred new thought and evolved into tremendous successes. Never throw an idea away just because it didn’t work the first time. Dust it off, look at it with fresh eyes, and find new facets that could lead to something bigger.

Five More Questions

Q: Tell us about a cause or a charity that is important to you.

A: Digital equity is something that is important to me. Not only providing access to the digital world, but helping others understand and capitalize on the opportunities it holds will lift our entire society. This is beyond jobs and technical skills. It speaks to the very fabric of society working cooperatively to achieve the best that each one of us has to offer. Mentoring is another great cause. I was excited to learn about the Sioux52.org initiative. Helping to equip and prepare others is one of the greatest gifts we can give and every one of us can contribute in this area.

Q: What is a skill that you’d like to learn and why?

A: One skill that I would like to get better at is using social media. Social media catches a lot of bad press for how consumed people get with it, but it is perhaps one of the greatest communication channels available to anyone. Understanding the different platforms (and new ones constantly spinning up) and how they cooperate with each other is something that I’d like to become more proficient with. There are so many great stories occurring across the city, being able to amplify those in meaningful ways would be a great skill to have.

Q: What might someone be surprised to learn about you?

A: My brother, Charles Grigsby, was a finalist on the second season of American Idol. It was a fun time watching him on the show and being a part of the excitement surrounding him. I’m not as musically inclined as he is, but I’m the consummate supporter!

Q: If you could witness any event of the past, present, or future, what would it be and why?

A: I was born two years after we first landed on the moon. I would like to have been a young adult at that time to witness that event. Suddenly, a whole new realm of possibilities was opened to the entire world. Humanity had reached the moon…what else might we be able to accomplish? I think those same, maybe even more, opportunities are in front of all us again. What might we be able to do today? What about tomorrow?

Q: How did you choose your profession?

A: I was trained as an electronic technician in the military, but wanted to pursue law enforcement when I exited. The U.S. Marshal Service wasn’t hiring when I left the military, so I pursued new technologies opportunities, like graphic design and web development. At the time, they were very new endeavors and opened up several doors to gain a broad spectrum of experiences. I never really pursued the technology space, as much as I continually looked for new opportunities to solve the challenges facing companies and communities.

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