On the Public Record with Brian Elms, Denver Peak Academy

On the Public Record with Brian Elms, Denver Peak Academy

During the 2016 CPBB Conference, ELGL will host a live interview with Brian Elms, ‎Director of Peak Academy and Analytics at City and County of Denver – ‎City and County of Denver. Stay tuned for details.

The 4-1-1 on Brian

Brian Elms (LinkedIn and Twitter) is a creative innovation and process improvement professional with 15 years of experience providing political, policy, legislative and program management expertise to government agencies, elected officials, trade associations and non-profit organizations. Brian started his career in public service after graduating from Regis University and joining the National School and Community Corps (AmeriCorps) as a team leader. After working in Washington DC, Brian moved back to his hometown and served as the Assistant Director of Government Affairs at Denver International Airport.

Brian is a certified Lean Black Belt, Six-sigma Green Belt and is a leader in Denver’s Peak Academy. He helped create the Peak Academy curriculum and trains employees performance management and continuous improvement through the Lean process improvement methodology.

The 4-1-1 on the Denver Peak Academy

Denver Peak Academy aims to make government fun, innovative, and empowering to citizens and employees. We are accomplishing this one innovation at a time! Peak Academy trains city employees at all levels on the principles of “Lean,” which teaches how to eliminate waste, improve efficiency and ultimately create a higher standard of government. Through Peak Academy, trainees learn techniques and strategies for implementing Peak Performance throughout their department, taking personal investment in the city’s continuous improvement initiatives.

The Interview


Book: Peak Performance by Brian Elms and J.B Wogan

To help our readers picture what you look like, tell us the celebrity that you most closely resemble. 

Daniel Craig or Harrison Ford

Who is the most famous person in your cell phone contacts? 

Norman Lear

What are three facts about the Peak Academy that are not on the website? 

  • Everyone likes to say they are open to new ideas…but very few people actually are.
  • Innovation takes grit.
  • We love what we do

Your vision is “changing the way government operates to improve your experience.” What does that mean to your personally? How does Peak try to fulfill this vision? 

Our mission is to make the citizen’s interaction with the Government as smooth as Amazon or Zappos.  We work with frontline employees to teach them ways to make it easier for the customer to get what they came for…a great example is this video.

In the last five years, how was Peak Academy evolved? What is the vision moving forward? 

We started doing really big projects and watched dozens of them fail.  We work really hard on doing smaller innovations and trying to do hundreds of small innovations as opposed to a single large one.  To date, more than 2000 innovations have come through our program.  Our vision moving forward is to train as many employees that innovation and performance are part of the job.  We then can spend more time helping people with their statistics and predictive analytics.

Name the three biggest challenges preventing government from changing the way they operate. 

  • Executives making decisions based on personality and not on data,
  • Not believing in your team and looking for consultants to solve the problems, and
  • Putting too much money into enterprise software systems that don’t work

“…because failure leads to breakthrough.” Give us a couple of examples of failure leading to eventual success. 


In our new book Peak Performance, we devote an entire chapter to failures.  My team really struggles in doing too much work for our employees.  We have to find a way to provide more coaching and less actual work.  We want to watch our fellow employees succeed.  But sometimes they are so bogged down by their day to day work, we take on the innovation and run with it.  That is a huge problem for the sustainability of any innovation.  The book tells some great failure stories that are way longer than this.

Is Denver the most-well run city in the country? 

No, but we are on our way.

ELGL is coming to Denver for the CPBB conference in August. Give us three restaurants that we must visit. 

Wow.  We love to eat out.  So, here is a list of my favorites.

  • Cart and Driver
  • Dos Santos
  • Beast and Bottle
  • into the wind
  • Preservery
  • Populist
  • Blue Pan Pizza

We love almost anything in Union Station right now.  We also love going out into the neighborhoods

What question(s) should we have asked?

What was it like to write a book about Government?   

Amazing and horrible at the same time.  Writing somedays was really hard and other days it flowed really well.  If I didn’t have JB Wogan from Governing, I would still be working on the drafts and it would be really boring to read.  Thank god for him and Zach Patton.  They made me do things I would never have done.

Supplemental Reading

Denver Peak Academy: The Innovation Interview

Here’s How Denver Peak Academy Turns City Workers Into Black-Belt

Forget Technology; Denver Turns to Its Employees to Fix Problems

Brian Elms With JB Wogan – Governing magazine