Don't Panic: Innovate!

Engulfed by a tidal wave of red ink, governments across the nation are struggling to keep their head above water. The temptation, says Professor Stephen...
by | July 23, 2009
 

Engulfed by a tidal wave of red ink, governments across the nation are struggling to keep their head above water. The temptation, says Professor Stephen Goldsmith of the Ash Institute, will be to hunker down. "This would be a big mistake," says Goldsmith. "Now more than ever government needs to embrace innovative approaches to daunting problems."

The Public Innovator's Playbook shows how. Written by William D. Eggers and Shalabh Kumar Singh of Deloitte Research, this new book looks at strategies that public officials can use to generate, cultivate, and adopt new and better ways of doing things. (You can view the book at www.deloitte.com/innovatorsplaybook.)

More than just a laundry list of good ideas, this 150-page guide lays out a vision for how to become "An Innovation Organization." Eggers and Singh aren't above suggesting techniques that your mother might not approve of, including stealing and copying. "The best way to avoid reinventing the wheel is to make sure when someone else invents something, you get the news, and, ideally, a copy of the plans."

The book looks at examples of innovative practices from around the globe, including the US, the UK, and India, among others. Public officials will not only find a number of thought-provoking ideas, they'll learn how to become adept at identifying which ideas hold the greatest promise for adoption to their unique circumstances.

Profiles of innovative practices include a review of New York City's "311" telephone hotline, a unique public-private partnership that helped boost tourism in the Indian state of Kerela, and the Transportation Security Administration's online "Idea Factory," which taps into the wisdom of travelers.

The authors also examine how Web 2.0 technologies are changing the way government identifies cost-saving ideas. At a time when government seems to be caught in a frenzy of service cuts and tax hikes, it is refreshing to see a fresh look at innovation targeted to public officials.

Published in conjunction with the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, this easy-to read guidebook is a goldmine of cutting-edge thinking, and includes a forward by Professor Stephen Goldsmith.

"This book lays out a blueprint for embracing innovation in the public sector," says Stephen Goldsmith. "It is an important companion for those government officials looking to help make government better at nurturing bold ideas and delivering great results."

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