Magazine article Government Finance Review

Turning Governments into Innovation Machines

Magazine article Government Finance Review

Turning Governments into Innovation Machines

Article excerpt

The key is "intrapreneurship" establishing a publicsector culture that rewards disivption from within.

Uber, an app that allows smartphone users to find vehicles for hire, has been insanely popular, disputing the traditional taxi model. Meanwhile, the rental-car industry is being disrupted by several innovations, such as Zipcar, the car-sharing service; AutoSlash.com, which monitors carrental prices; and FlightCar.com, which allows individuals who are travelling to rent their cars out while they are away.

Government needs disruptive innovation just as much as the taxi industry does, but the dynamic that is reshaping the taxi business - entrepreneurs looking to make money by creating new service models - isn't a natural fit for government. Can governments innovate and do so mindfully? They can, and what many are finding is that the key to success is creating a culture of /n/rapreneurship - the act of behaving like an entrepreneur within a large organization in a process of assertive risk-taking.

We're beginning to see public intrapreneurship, such as in the local government innovation labs that are springing up all over the place. Boston's Office of New Urban Mechanics, for example, pilots experiments that have the potential to improve the quality of city services, such as the Citizens Connect apps that provide residents with tools to upload photos or use texting to report local problems. Internationally, platforms such as MindLab engage citizens and business on community issues.

A recent conference in Santiago, Chile, had an intriguing theme: "Public Innovation: Much Ado About Nothing?" That note of skepticism is understandable. But innovation in the public sector is attainable. What's needed is to keep in mind a few key precepts:

* Design a process to foster intrapreneurship: Without a clearly defined process embedded within the work practices of employees, the chances of engaging the entire organization in innovation are minimal. A process needs to be in place to move ideas from conception to experimentation and, finally, to implementation. Organizations of all types and sizes have been doing this to varying degrees. The city of Chicago, for example, set up a $20 million loan fund for city departments to compete against each other to come up with innovative ideas. …

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