Andrea Schneider

Andrew K. posted this question in my social networking group, so I’ll make a go of it, but not by myself. I refer to many thinkers in answering a question like that! I do think the word innovation is kicked around easily, without discipline or any framework. There are a number of places I go when I want to clear my head about some key concepts, I add to the list all the time.

One of my favorites is Ideo.com the most amazing design professionals ever. I’ll refer you specifically to Innovation Strategy as a thoughtful and openly shared set of ideas which are far ranging with common themes.

While Ideo.com resides in the business sector, I find some of the best thinking in companies interested in social enterprise. Certainly not always the place I would normally think of finding some of the most intelligent writing on the subject.

If you are in government, you can translate the terms which focus on business strategies, although I think government needs to think more like a business, or at least consider some of their key learnings. I believe we would get a lot more done by pairing government idea leaders with idea leaders in business. There is a convergence occurring between sectors that I haven’t seen before, I think we should capitalize on it.

I’ve recently been introduced to the Ash Center at Harvard and am impressed with what they are doing, thinking and writing about. I know I could go crazy finding and reading other sites as well.

I think we are seeing examples of innovation in the work Kevin is doing with CityCamp, Lucas with the Open Government Directive workshops, Sunlight Foundation on Transparency, OpenPlans, Smarter Cities, Code for America, GovLoop, and so many others coming to my attention every day. I am impressed as I watch many of these efforts hook up and collaborate together, each bringing talent to the table for better outcomes. It’s refreshing. I think it’s an example of innovation.

I am disappointed right now with most of the federal agencies, which are stuck with worn out internal issues of power, control, lack of confidence, poor leadership, redundancy between and among agencies and a general lack of capacity to even think about innovation.

I am challenging the Executive Branch to conduct organizational assessments of each agency to see if they even have what it takes to carry out the Open Government Directive, my informed guess is absolutely not, therefore we can’t expect the changes promised. We need champions for each phase of change.

Going further, I challenge Congress to conduct assessments on how many times they fund the same thing over and over again, that’s old news too. It ridiculous how much money we could save if these two branches did some innovative things themselves and had the grit and guts to take a deeper look.

I recently wrote about this on the Sunlight Foundation’s Blog in response to Ellen Miller’s very smart presentation at the Gov 2.0 Summit.

I think it takes a willingness to be different, maybe even be kicked around, to be innovative and think about new ways of doing old things better. I’d like to know what people think, what holds them back from being innovative, introducing ideas from all kinds of places, where they currently work?

I’ve been in so many government meetings where outside the meeting participants will offer great ideas, I’ll say, ‘bring it up, you have to say it’, and they don’t back inside the room out of some cultural fear. We are such losers when we allow this type of behavior and environment to exist. Why should raising your hand in a meeting make so many people sick to their stomachs?

I offer ideo.com as an example where the culture is all about good ideas, but not just for the sake of it. They have much bigger goals which require people to go beyond the norm. Creativity and innovation are expectations, not after thoughts.

This is not what is driving our current organizational government structures at all. I want the Executive Branch to conduct organizational assessments, I want to know if employees even have ‘permission’ to be innovative within their organizations. If they don’t, none of it will happen if the pressure isn’t on. Every bureaucrat knows how to outlive each administration. Leadership for this cultural realignment has to come from the top. We will miss this moment in time, it is a rare opportunity. We will miss it because we haven’t put enough pressure on the White House to go to the next step. We need them to take their own initiative past the first stage, or, they will leave us with great words and ideas, but no serious action, no matter how hard we try. It would be a deep and huge disappointment to waste this energy and opportunity, to actually do something really different, number one, and then two, make it sustainable. The great thing about what we want to do is it is non-partisan, unless so many special interests have their hands on the inside, as they did with the terrible Gulf Coast disaster.

I’d live to take all the so called jargon words and phrases and put some definition around them too. Language is one way to keep people out, not invite them in. The more simple and practical we can make it the more action and interest we will see.