Given that governments across the world spend so much of their time measuring the levels of innovation within their countries and even try and invent incentives to encourage innovation, one wonders why there is so little innovation within government.
Of course, the answer is relatively simple. Innovation is not like a tap that one can turn on and off at will but is a way of thinking that becomes ingrained within an organisation. However, that idea is totally at loggerheads with the needs of any government.
Government is surrounded by a number of parameters that require innovative thought to be suppressed. The first of these is the length of time between elections. The last thing that one wants to do is to start something only for it to come to fruition after your opponents may have won the next election. You want the credit, not them.
This means that anything that takes longer than the period between elections has to be ruled out. But it is even worse than that. As one gets nearer to the next election so the implementation period gets shorter and shorter.
Another influencing factor is the need by governments to have innovations that are not only quick to implement but are large and dramatic. Often innovation in the real world is small and incremental. However much this may be of benefit to the organisation it will not be a vote winner.
The very structure of government also militates against innovation, as the people in power are more and more likely to be career politicians with no experience of the innovative outside world. So they will continue to use the only known government tool of laws, rules and directives together with its copious punishments for non-compliance.
Unfortunately the tools of government are much more likely to be restrictive and totally against the concept of individual freedom. And to ensure that it remains this way the people below them are appointed and trained through the same channels that created the career politicians. It is no surprise to find that top civil servants were often at university with today’s political leaders.
So the old model is maintained and the government makes modest proposals and the opposition opposes. The essential requirement of innovation in the real world of collaboration is significantly absent in today’s government.
Government is about risk-averse proposals that have a self-serving outcome. Today government is about image and not substance and hence innovators are seen as rebels and not to be encouraged.
Although the dream of all countries is one of a genuine democracy, in reality a benevolent and eccentric dictator with a long tenure is probably much more likely to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. Take away the fear of facing an election and the space appears to create and improve!