If you, like me, have wondered whether the innovation-as-buzzword trend is having much of an impact on government today, a new, very thorough and much-needed report from IBM Center for the Business of Government addresses this issue head-on.
The report, “A Guide for Making Innovation Offices Work,” authored by Rachel Burstein and Alissa Black, covers the short history, various forms of structure, short-comings, successes and ways to improve.
“To thrive long term, though, government innovation offices must be structured, staffed, and resourced appropriately and thoughtfully, with careful attention to meeting critical needs and solving big challenges,” the report states.
Key excerpt from the executive summary:
Through our research and conversations with government leaders, it became apparent that innovation offices may not be the best way to achieve certain objectives and are not a good fit for every government organization . Some alternatives to innovation offices are presented . Innovation offices are not a panacea and more research needs to be done to understand their impact . But discrete innovation structures, thoughtfully constructed to address particular mis- sions and specific outcomes, have potential . The goal of this report is to guide government leaders in realizing the potential and limitations of an innovation office.
From my perspective, the fundamental components of long-term government innovation come in the form of open source and open data policies that are followed through on. Much of what we’ve seen to date from innovation offices is focused on short-term wins, seemingly used to help position the mayor as cutting-edge, or to provide a platform for a few key personalities inside government to talk conceptually about innovation, primarily around launching an open data or civic engagement platform.