Many topics aren’t directly on point, but part of the challenge we face is how to apply lessons from other fields and disciplines and make them relevant in a municipal context. I came across this blog post in the Harvard Business Review, and frankly the headline resonated: When You Can’t Innovate, Copy.
While innovations are vital, it is impractical to think that we can all be innovators. For many practitioners, being a jack of all trades is practically part of the job description. This approach, while often necessary leaves little time to be truly innovate and explore new ways of doing things.
So what are we to do with limited resources, and even less time available to research, test, and implement new ways of doing business? Why not copy from your peers that have figured it out? Unlike when you did it in Algebra class, this form of copying won’t get a note sent home to your mother. This is a way of leveraging proven approaches to maximize your limited resources and improve your community along the way.
There are a variety places to look for what your colleagues are doing well. The League’s Community Excellence Award program was started for just this purpose. It provides members a platform to tell others about their accomplishments, but perhaps more importantly it is a way for the rest of us to learn from their experiences. The National League of Cities and the International City/County Management Association can be excellent resources for innovative ideas as well.
A mentor of mine often said “there aren’t any new ideas, so steal everything.” While I don’t necessarily agree with the literal interpretation, the idea was clear and on point. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. If you see something that works, make it your own. As Charles Caleb Colton once said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.