Innovation in Government: Learning from Luddites

Innovation in Government: Learning from Luddites

 

Once upon a time, I had a boss who was referred to as a technology Luddite. So, I’m thinking what the heck is a Luddite? According to http://dictionary.reference.com, it means:

 

  1. Any of a group of British workers who between 1811 and 1816 rioted and destroyed labor saving textile machinery in the belief that such machinery would diminish employment.
  2. Anyone who opposes technical or technological change.

 

My first thought was OMG, what have I done to deserve this?  But, after several conversations with him, I came to understand the validity of his position.  Technology innovation needs to be responsive to a mission requirement; it needs to improve processes and clearly communicate value; and it needs to produce a return on investment to stakeholders. 

 

Last week, I participated in Gartner’s Emerging Technologies Best Practices Council.  I enjoyed hearing about challenges that the group, mostly industry, had in emerging technologies management issues.  I noticed that the problems in industry are not all that different from the problems in government.  There are direct analogs that are applicable to the government.  Companies innovate to obtain a competitive advantage.  In government, we would do this to assure a needed mission outcome, manage and reduce risk, and improve efficiency and effectiveness.  I was reminded of my beloved Luddite boss, who had a valid point about what IT leaders need to do.

 

There has been much discussion on how to promote and encourage innovation in Government.  Some even postulate that the government, as a not for profit organization, is not incented to adopt and implement innovative ideas.  Indeed there are impediments.  I discussed some of them at the American Council for Technology Management of Change Conference.

 

(1)   The mindset of leadership in government needs to fully embrace innovation.  CIOs need to be strategic and Agency heads need to seek CIOs that foot the bill.

(2)   The risk aversion culture in government needs be addressed with effective risk management and risk mitigation efforts.

(3)   While this may seem to be an oxymoron, there needs to be an effective innovation governance established which is the framework for making decisions and ensuring ROI.

 

Addressing these impediments will go a long way in helping us live happily every after in the wonderful world of innovation. 

 

Linda Y. Cureton

 

 

2 thoughts on “Innovation in Government: Learning from Luddites”

  1. You are correct. Innovation and risk taking go hand in hand. However, what is the incentive for “govies” to take risks? Financial? No. Promotions? Probably not. Personal satisfaction? Ok. Here’s my point: I try to push innovation in contracting, but I often hear from my team members that if they take risk, one of two things will happen. If the risk results in a successful outcome, there are 20 people ahead of them ready to take the credit; however, if it is not, the risk taker (in this case a CO) is hanging out there without cover. I can’t say I disagree. I’ve seen this happen more than once. How do we fix that? We need to create an environment where risk taking is ok and is part of the culture. But as you say above, risk needs to be managed. The risk taker needs to be in a “risk safe zone,” surrounded by other risk takers who have enough knowledge and experience to know where the risk is too great to yield the desired results, i.e., innovation. It can be done.

  2. Other part of my comment that was cut off….

    … We need to create an environment where risk taking is ok and is part of the culture. But as you say above, risk needs to be managed. The risk taker needs to be in a “risk safe zone,” surrounded by other risk takers who have enough knowledge and experience to know where the risk is too great to yield the desired results, i.e., innovation. It can be done.

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