John O'Leary is a former GOVERNING contributor. He is co-author of "If We Can Put a Man on the Moon: Getting Big Things Done in Government."E-mail: email@example.com
I'm often asked for reading suggestions for public officials looking to get up to speed on innovative management. So here is my list of essential readings, just in time for last-minute holiday gift giving.
I'll start by tooting my own horn. If We Can Put a Man on the Moon, co-authored by yours truly and William D. Eggers, recently made the Washington Post bestseller list. The book provides an enjoyable look at what makes big government initiatives successful. Filled with tools for public officials, the book makes it easier to avoid the hidden traps that loom on the journey to success, and it's a nonpartisan and constructive look at how to make government work better.
Though not specifically geared for public officials, Switch by Chip and Dan Heath is another highly readable look at what makes organizational change possible. Not only can the book help you bring changes to an entrenched bureaucracy, it just might help you stick to your diet, too.
For those looking to instill a culture of innovation in public organizations, The Public Innovator's Playbook by Eggers and Shalabh Kumar Singh is a great overview that offers a systematic approach to the challenge. Full of real-world case studies, it explores the conditions that make innovation part of an organization's DNA, rather than just a one-time phenomenon.
Government innovation is also the topic of Leading Public Sector Innovation by Christian Bason of Denmark's MindLab group. With clear writing and concrete examples, Bason demonstrates how public officials can embrace a new way of thinking -- despite some challenging obstacles. Bason's hands-on experience at MindLab makes the book extremely practical. As problems grow more complex, the innovation culture described in the book becomes increasingly important
For those involved in social services, The Power of Social Innovation by Stephen Goldsmith looks at how a new breed of entrepreneurs both inside and outside of government are changing the way we think about helping troubled neighborhoods. The book offers powerful examples of transformational change.
For more serious wonks, some think tanks offer thoughtful examinations of the state of innovation in the public sector.
Two white papers worth a look come from the Center for American Progressand the Young Foundation. Co-authors Geoff Mulgan and Jitinder Kohli offer up Capital Ideas: How to Generate Innovation in the Public Sector</a> and Scaling New Heights: How to Spot Small Successes in the Public Sector and Make Them Big. These two guides peek under the hood of public management and offer specific strategies to spur innovation.
From the folks at NESTA in the United Kingdom, Radical Efficiency is more than a white paper, shorter than a book. The subtitle -- "Different, Better, Lower Cost Public Services" -- neatly sums up the subject matter. Using a variety of examples from the UK and elsewhere, it confirms the ubiquity of trends we are seeing here in the U.S. -- greater input from those who receive services, leveraging the technologies of Gov 2.0 and new approaches to networks of public and private service providers.
This list wouldn't be complete without a nod to disruptive technology. Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky is a look at how the Internet and social media are transforming everything. Published in 2008, it has important implications for government. On deck for me right now is Macrowikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams, which is also about technology and transformation.
To read about the challenges facing government, all you have to do is open the newspaper. Those seeking ideas on how to make government better, faster and cheaper have to go beyond the headlines. This list isn't a bad place to start. Happy reading!