Posts By Kent Aitken

Between Disruption and Incrementalism

This post originally appeared on In Tragedy in the Commons, Alison Loat and Michael MacMillan quote columnist Andrew Coyne: “People often ask: how can we reform politics? And the answer is: we can’t. There are very few institutional changes that would do any good, and whatever would has no chance of being enacted.” I’dRead… Read more »

Risk, Failure, and Honesty

This post originally appeared on Last year Nick and I went down a long rabbit hole on the idea of the faceless bureaucrat (see: Embracing Authenticity Means Embracing Complexity). There’s a maxim that bureaucrats are rightly anonymous, in that it facilitates professional, non-partisan advice, but I’ve been wondering if the foundations on which thatRead… Read more »

Keeping Yourself Honest Redux

This was originally posted on Last week, Nick wrote about how presenting the Scheming Virtuously playbook keeps him honest (see: Keeping Yourself Honest). I read that line and immediately thought back to a conversation I had last year in which someone on the periphery of government asked me why I was a public servant.Read… Read more »

A Firsthand Lesson in Participation

Originally published at Public services have recently been experimenting with many exercises intended to engage employees and stakeholders, which have led to many questions and discussions about what drives people to participation. I recently wrote on the Government of Canada’s internal platform, GCconnex, that the absence of technical barriers isn’t sufficient – there mayRead… Read more »

People Act, Technology Helps

This post was originally published on This quote from South by Southwest was making the rounds yesterday: It connects to Nick’s post last week (see: Dragon’s Dens, Hackathons, and Innovation Labs. Nick questioned whether such approaches are being used as innovation band-aids, plastered over more fundamental problems: If pressed to offer a TL;DR ofRead… Read more »

Parameters Are The Problem

This was originally posted at I recently ran across a business article about aligning your strategy with your environment. The hook was a cartoon of a man yelling “Why won’t this gigantic square peg fit in this round hole?!” Standare fare, age-old advice. Of course we should make sure that our strategies make senseRead… Read more »

Millenials, Lego, and the Perimeter of Ignorance

Every time I read an article about Gen Y or Millenials I run it through this litmus test: throughout the text, can you replace “Millenial” with “employee” with no loss of meaning? “[Employees] want meaningful work, they want to do things that are making an impact and if they’re not in a good environment whereRead… Read more »

Complexity is a Measurement Problem

This was originally posted at In today’s ecosystem of articles and books about innovation, management, governance, policy, and technology, there is a sentence that is becoming a standard: “Leaders must manage an increasingly complex environment.” And the author can point to anything – Moore’s Law, economic interconnectedness, citizen participation in policy-making, environmental externalities –Read… Read more »

Standardizing Innovation

Originally posted at Voices have been asking how government could take advantage of interesting models such as gamification, crowdsourcing, nudges, etc., looking for opportunities to innovate. I’ve tended to think that, if there is value in such approaches, the better question would be “Why are we not already using them?” And there’s a reasonableRead… Read more » as a Case Study for the Digital Analog Divide

This post was originally published on I find myself thinking about the launch of with a bizarre frequency. I think it’s fascinating as a case study and, I believe, emblematic of a broader unaddressed problem. The Long Story Short launched on October 1, 2013 to serve as a hub for US citizensRead… Read more »