Why Constraints Actually Breed Innovation

It may sound odd, but constraints can and usually are a catalyst for innovation. Think back to the industrial age here in America, importing goods was costing too much money and taking too much time – insert the American Industrial Revolution. The industrial revolution was a time of extreme growth and innovation in our country.

Tom Fox is the Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service. He says right now the federal government’s budget contraints could offer the same opportunity to innovate. He told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that innovation is particularly tricky for government.

“Innovation is hard for agencies because tax payers have such high expectations. Agencies are compelled to effectively and efficiently spend tax payer dollars and that doesn’t lend itself to risk,” said Fox.

Agile Innovation

“Government innovators should start small. With incremental steps. You don’t have to launch a program across the platform. You can start in a conference room, a floor, a department – that way don’t waste time and money on a program that might not work,” said Fox.

How do you make risk acceptable:

  1. Tell your people you want them to be innovative and creative.
  2. Support them, say yes more often than no.

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Pat Fiorenza

This was interesting to listen through – it’s just another example of how important it is for government to continue to build innovative cultures within agencies. Hopefully we will continue to see the agile approach that Tom Fox was talking about. Would love to see government culture become more proactive, instead of reactive.