I was reading a great Blog Post by Jeffrey Baumgartner, on the cost of not implementing new innovations. While the motivations are different for business, the idea is as true for local government as it is for business. The cost of the status quo can be profound, and no one keeps track of the innovations we chose not to implement. We all need to assess our ability to innovate, and much of that “ability” hinges on communication, empowerment, and a willingness to fail.
That’s right willingness to fail. The biggest impediment to innovation is the fear of failure. Unlike a business, we all live in a world where a bad day can be on the front page. Local leadership has to ensure that our staffs believe that they will be supported for trying new things, and that we recognize that not all ideas are good ideas.
Thomas Edison was quoted as saying, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” We need to create that type of environment if we want to spur innovation. Sticky notes were created by trying to invent a new type of super glue, so you never fully know where the next great idea may come from.
What does your internal communication look like? Does your staff feel that they have the real ability to influence change and bring forth ideas? Do you have a good system, formal or informal, to get ideas from the trenches to the people with the ability to make it happen? These are all key questions that you need to ask yourself. Too often when looking to identify new opportunities we fail to look in the most obvious places. The people that we rely on to perform the day to day functions will quite often have the greatest insight on where the opportunities lie. We need to tap that resource and maximize the benefits. Our ability to do more with less has never been more important. We need to be certain that we have done our part to identify and implement that next great idea.