Leading from the Driver’s Seat

“We live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when it is already disappearing.”

Psychologist R.D. Laing made this observation many years ago, yet his words still ring true, especially today when the pace of change continues to get faster. Let’s think about what he said, especially we begin to see the present only when it is already disappearing. Picture that. It’s like driving your car but instead of looking at the road right in front of you, you only look through the rear view mirror. So you only see things after you have already passed them! Fortunately nobody drives a car this way — but many people do drive organizations this way.

Leading from the driver's seatLooking at the past is something business leaders have been trained to do. We look at the previous quarter’s earnings to see how business is doing. We look at annual performance for the previous year to see how well the organization met its goals, and then we plan for the future based on information from the past. Of course, it can be helpful to learn from the past, but this should not be the extent of an organization’s learning and planning efforts.

When you look behind, you can see what has changed. But how much does that really help you plan for the future? When you’re driving, it’s not very helpful to see that the light you just went through is now red, especially if the one in front of you is turning yellow and will be red before you reach it. You might see that a car is following you too closely, but if all your attention is focused on that car you might go through a red light, or miss your turn, or even crash into a car in front of you. When you are driving, it’s important to be aware of all your surroundings, but the most important area for attention is what is in front of you — immediately, as well as down the road. Your destination is also important, unless you like driving around without going anywhere in particular. [Read more...]

Government Innovation: An Oxymoron?

Government Innovation coverThis post originally appeared in TheEDGE

The basic definition of innovation is “to challenge the status quo and constantly promote change.” However, a stable, monopolistic environment doesn’t tend to lead to innovative behaviour, and can increase its bias toward inertia over time — actively preventing innovation to maintain the status quo. We’ve seen this time and again in both the commercial and public sectors.

However, innovation is becoming a core attribute required by public sector organisations to merely keep up with the rate of change in society and develop new ways to deliver services, fulfill public needs, and become catalysts for economic growth. Constant change can be uncomfortable for people used to stable environments, but if we can harness it to drive innovation in policy development, service delivery, and in how we organise and operate the instrumentality of government, it may uncover major benefits and growth opportunities.

To explore this issue, we asked those questions that are in the minds of many people interested in public sector innovation.

Can Governments Innovate?

Governments can innovate, but they do it differently. So the question is not can governments innovate, but how should they go about it? [Read more...]