A few months ago I wrote a post on getting everyone involved in innovation initiatives, assuming that was something many, if not most, organizations wanted to do. Yet many organizations are more comfortable with maintaining the status quo than with converting promising ideas into new products or services or using them to improve internal processes. In particular, the public sector often discourages efforts to innovate.
I made that point way back in 2008, citing an interview with Minnesota's CIO and an Info-Tech report of IT spending trends that seemed to indicate the public sector was less committed to innovation than most private industries. Things don't appear to have changed much in the few years, based on the experiences of a National Library of Medicine employee who led a project to create an online application that allows users to identify thousands of pills with visual images despite discouraging signals from his supervisor.
As a Federal Computer Week story relates, David Hale initially got a "slap on the wrist" for working with colleagues from other agencies and peers from the private sector to develop the idea. Despite the slap, Hale was allowed to proceed, largely because the idea had gotten an enthusiastic endorsement from the CTO of the Health and Human Services Department.
Work on the application, called Pillbox, later stalled for nine months while compliance and regulatory requirements were met. Hale described a sometimes-frustrating environment in which it's tough to find a balance between working through the usual channels and trying to trim organizational red tape. Sometimes (even in the private sector) abandoning the standard policies and processes is the best way to get anything done, as IT Business Edge contributor Rob Enderle illustrated with his post on a top-secret development at EMC that resulted in a storage solution for the SMB market.
The Federal Computer Week article includes several of Hale's tips for advancing innovation, all of which also apply to private-sector organizations. Among them:
In another post on making innovation an IT imperative, I mentioned IT organizations could spur innovation by asking what DeSai Group CEO Jatin DeSai calls "the four whys": Why should something be done? Why now? Why that way? Why not this path vs. that path?