Thursday, September 9, 2010

Innovation model for bureaucrats?

There was a recent article in the The Economist about innovation and the ways that some companies have been setting themselves up to generate ideas. One way of doing it seems to be to allow everyone to carry out their own individual project, while another way that seems to bear more fruit is to have dedicated, relatively autonomous innovation divisions. The way this is presented is how best to take advantage of all the ideas floating around - "sperm in the air" as Freud apparently described it. Perhaps the most important aspect of it all is that "the heads of operational units prefer the known over the unknown".

On reading this I was struck by how this is not limited to private sector innovation. Indeed, the discussion of how a dedicated unit should work on the feedback it receives, be based on staff nominally outside the general routine work but also including some line staff, and learn from mistakes, made me thing of the kinds of policy analysis units frequently promoted for industrial policy management. In the Rodrik model of industrial policy, there is a need for a dedicated unit which collects information, distributes information, identifies trends and identifies bottlenecks to investment and private sector expansion.

Is this then the innovation model for the public sector?

How can this be taken further to tie in with and improve industrial policy?

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