Where Science Meets Muse

We Need Innovation in Government – Share Your Ideas!

Posted by Plish on February 12, 2009


Original B&W from brentoons.com

Original at brentoons.com


New CEO says we must innovate and create new opportunities.

There is agreement from Senior Management that this is true, but disagreements over methodology.

Meetings come and meetings go. Arguments ensue over where to put money and resources.

CEO tries to rally all those around her :

“Look, these are difficult times and we need to stop the bleeding.  I know every plan isn’t perfect but if we keep bickering and arguing we’ll pass the point of no return. Bottom line: I was picked to lead this company and I have to do what I believe is right. The buck stops here!”

“Anyone who argues by referring to authority is not using his mind but rather his memory.” Leonardo da Vinci

Plan is not communicated well enough to create buy-in through the ranks. In fact, there’s doubt plan will even work. Personal agenda items seem to creep into discussions. Innovation is something that is expected to occur once plan is in place but there’s doubt.

Plan gets pushed through.

Half-hearted support throughout the ranks results in serious stalls. Those at lower levels are talking at the lunch table:

“Man, with the new CEO you would think something would change around here.”

“What did you expect? The CEO can only do so much. She’s got all those other folks around her that still think the same old way.”

“And, act the same old way.”

This company is in trouble. So what should management do?

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” -Albert Einstein

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” -Albert Einstein

This failure of an innovation initiative is common in companies with inertia: Large Corporations. Even though innovation is a goal, because of the lack of an innovative infrastructure, innovation isn’t supported and in fact, is hindered.

We’re seeing the same problem now in the US government. This problem isn’t about bad people; it’s about bad systems and the inability for politicians to think, act, cooperate and lead in bold new ways.

“Two heads are better than one”

I propose that ‘heads’ be replaced by ‘idealogies’ or ‘perspectives’. For innovation to occur, business/government can not be driven by one party-cular point of view.  Instead,  multiple ideologies/perspectives need to be dialoging, reaching a dynamic consensus that advances and empowers the employees/people to give their best, reap the rewards of their labors, and contribute to the common good.

“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” – President John F. Kennedy

Blame shifts the focus to remembering the past; innovation requires forgetting it.   Blaming a person, party or regime for any situation is not new or innovative. Unfortunately, it is the de facto way of operating in the government. This should not and can not continue. Innovative ways of reaching consensus must become the order of the day. The old ways of investigations and innuendo must change. There must be an openness to alternate perspectives, a willingness to rise above the popularity of polls, lobbyists and special interests, a willingness to embrace brilliance wherever it shines.

“The restriction of knowledge to an elite group destroys the spirit of the society and leads to its intellectual impoverishment.” -Albert Einstein

Innovation/creativity is the birthright of all people.  As such their voices need to be heard.

This is your chance.

How can government be fixed?

What metrics should be used to determine the effectiveness of day to day governing?

What things should they start doing to stop doing business as usual and start innovating?

A culture of innovation must start permeating this government that is supposed to be, “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

This problem can’t be solved by creating a Secretary of Innovation post .

Individuals, families, companies, have found, and will continue to find, ways to make ends meet through creativity and innovation.  They will continue to shine!

It’s the government’s turn…

8 Responses to “We Need Innovation in Government – Share Your Ideas!”

  1. How about using Business experts – a representative from each of the Top five hundred most successful businesses on the planet, set up a team to work with governments in partnership to seek solutions….encourage input further afield; involve the masses. Create Mind Mapping conferences to address specific “problems”, get it on TV, get everyone combining brain power – we link computers why not the most powerful computers on Earth – link human potential. The man on the street may just have answers overlooked in the boardroom.


  2. Plish said

    Brilliant! Thanks for some excellent suggestions and food for thought!

  3. Plish said

    I posed this same question on innovating government at LinkedIn and Jeroen Van Bemmel wrote:
    The problem is that most government organizations are monopolists in their area, they have no competitors. Where commercial companies risk to be out of business and hence are forced to continuously innovate, government bodies have no such incentive. There are of course political forces driving innovation (such as upcoming elections), but for many government bodies also this driver is unfortunately absent.

    So: what would drive the Government to innovate?

  4. Plish said

    I posed this same question on innovating government at LinkedIn and Saul Kaplan wrote:
    Just like companies need to explore better ways to deliver value to customers government agencies need to explore better ways to deliver value to citizens. Business model innovation is an imperative for all organizations across the public and private sector. Citizen centric business models can deliver greater value for less tax payer money. In order to accomplish it we will need safe platforms for experimentation to demonstrate that new public sector business models can work. Once we demonstrate that a better model can work in the real world we can focus on how to transition from today’s models. The change is not a tweak to the current sclerotic models but a new model that leverages technology and puts the citizen at the center. Today’s turbulent economy and tough budget environment provides a perfect time to move a government innovation agenda forward. Saul

  5. Plish said

    Some great points from Saul and Jeroen. Two key ideas for discussion:
    1. Government innovating to bring better value to citizens
    2. Competition as a driver for innovation.

    Thoughts on these or any others?

  6. Walter said

    Good question put by Plish (see comment below on previous post). I guess what makes any member of any cabinet effective: they need to be able to bring new information and inspiration to the table and then be able to get incubation and implementation. That means clever finding your way around, create some consensus along the way and still be able to maintain the new and the different. But I think the main talent of a SOI would be to get the notion of experiment into politics. Prototyping rules and regulations, doing try-outs on a smaller scale, getting lots of stakeholders involved, empowering talent. In fact being a creative person, not afraid to make mistakes in trying.

    So I’m not quite sure I agree with Plish that government can’t have a place for innovation. It might even be one of the essential features of modern government in the 21ste century. Putting all our faith into the businessworld when it comes to change, seems a little bit dangerous to me for some reason…

    And creative people per definition like to stand on the side and just critize the system, so that doesn’t speed up the proces of progress either.

  7. Plish said

    Walter, I totally agree that there is a place for innovation within government-I believe it’s sorely needed!! I especially believe it’s needed in the halls of Congress where the same ol’, same ol’ of blame, one party dominance, faux consensus are in dire need of an overhaul. The citizens of this country deserve better value from their elected officials and government organizations. To these ends, a CIO could be valuable.

    Where I am leary about a CIO, is whether the reach of the CIO should enter directly into private industry. The upper echelons of innovation management do their best work when they are able to get obstacles out of the way for their teams. Private industries’ needs are pretty diverse, and while there may be some similarities, I believe a CIO couldn’t be effective on the outskirts of innovation in the country.

    I believe the Principle of Subsidiarity should play here and the criteria underwhich a CIO would get involved would be the following scenarios:
    -The CIO’s action must be necessary because actions of individuals companies or state governments alone will not achieve the objectives of the action
    -The CIO’s action must bring added value over and above what could be achieved by companies or state government action alone.
    -Decisions should be made as closely as possible to the companies and their employees.
    -The action should secure greater freedoms for the individual companies and their employees.

    Given those four criteria, I can’t think of any circumstance that would require a CIO to get involved on the private level. However, if the proper changes were made within the government, there is no doubt that private industry (and the citizens of the the US!) would feel the effects of making the government more innovative within its ranks.

    It’s an interesting phenomenon that with the election of President Obama, there has been an increase of discussions for creating various offices (of Art, of Innovation, etc.) in the government. I think that’s being unfair to the new President and creating a copout scenario for the citizens of this country. The mess the country is in now hasn’t occured because of the failed democracy-it’s occured because of a failed oligarchy.

    Innovation occurs and propagates most effectively at the grass roots level. I have great faith and pride in the innovative, business building capabilities of the American people. They’ve shone and come through dire circumstances in the past and will do so again. 99.9 percent of this population simply wants to be what they can be. The 0.1% that has created this mess are the ones that need to look at themselves and ask, “What can we do so that the American People don’t suffer because of our decisions, so that we stay out of the way of their earning money, of them following their dreams, of them making this country (and world) a better place?”

    Guiding this process of answering that question should, I think, be the role of the CIO.

    Thanks for your input, Walter!

  8. Plish said

    From Jeff Herrle over at LinkedIn:

    In Ontario, we have two programs to encourage innovation and intrapreneurialism: we have a small internal venture fund that provides funding for 1-year proof-of-concept projects to deliver public services more efficiently that originate from on-the-ground employees (versus incremental business improvements). We also have an organization-wide online ideas program, which enables employees to submit and develop business improvement ideas on any aspect of the government business.
    There are a number of impediments to innovation in government (e.g. lack of competition; labour-union dynamics; changing political agendas; negative political and media attention when new approaches fail; politicians that sloppily pit themselves against the bureaucracy). However, I think that among many gov’t employees that there is a real desire to deliver efficient public services and support the public good. You just need the right mechanisms to leverage this.
    One interesting model I’ve seen is in Florida — a partnership between Florida Tax Watch and the state government to support innovation and productivity improvements: http://www.floridataxwatch.org/dpa/

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