Elon Musk as government innovator

President Barack Obama, left, Air Force Col. Lee Rosen, Commander, 45th Launch Group, center, and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk talk with Dr. John P. Holdren is Assistant to the President for Science and Technology during a tour of the commercial rocket processing facility of Space Exploration Technologies, known as SpaceX, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Cape Canaveral, Fla. on Thursday, April 15, 2010.
Photo: NASA

After reading Ashlee Vance’s new Elon Musk biography, I find myself wondering whether we should really worry about bad government websites, and instead chalk them up as inspiration for those who will change the world.

Musk, after visiting NASA’s website and not finding the agency’s plan for getting to Mars, started inquiring into the state of space in general, and the rest is SpaceX history.

While “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” is about Musk’s multiple entrepreneurial ventures, it’s also an inspiration to those who look to change government from the outside. Often, we hear much about (and from) the innovators within, but Vance does an incredible service chronicling Musk’s evolution from that first visit to nasa.gov to building SpaceX, including out-competing and out-innovating established government vendors, such as Lockheed and Boeing, and eventually working alongside them and NASA to revolutionize America’s space program.

“Elon Musk” is not just for those in Silicon Valley hoping to become the next Elon Musk. It’s for everyone in government who wants to change it from within by understanding how they can better empower those on the outside. The space anecdotes are particularly helpful inspiration in opening the eyes to what’s possible and how government can truly realize its innovation potential.

While not everyone can be Elon Musk, Vance’s insights into how one entrepreneur inspired government (and its entrenched service providers) to innovate are an important observation and lesson to acknowledge, especially for those developing processes hoping to foster government innovation, because often it happens outside the walls of the bureaucracy.

We just need to better enable it.

About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh, co-founder/CEO of ProudCity and co-host of the podcast, The Government We Need. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at luke@govfresh.com.


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