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A blog by Leon Oudejans

The oxymoron of government innovation

Several governments are busy reigning in the power of private businesses. On July 5, Bloomberg claimed that “[] what’s clear is that Beijing is looking for a way to control data collected by private companies, and is willing to shut them down if necessary.” The Bloomberg article added an interesting line: “China still hasn’t figured out exactly how that will work, which is underpinning the regulatory uncertainty. “

Recently, I’ve noticed the term government innovation quite a lot. Others have too. China may assume that it can take over innovation from private companies. However, isn’t government innovation an oxymoron?

Innovation starts with a vision, an idea. Its implementation is outside operational processes and inside project teams. A project is a combination of three ingredients: budget (ie, Money), deadline (ie, Time) and deliverables (ie, the What). The mix of these ingredients defines the project’s quality (my blogs on ingredients vs mix).

In general, it’s nearly impossible for businesses and/or organizations to finish a project (i) within budget, and (ii) within time, and (iii) achieving the desired quality. Concessions are often necessary. Therefore, these 3 ingredients are often referred to as the devil’s triangle or – more neutrally – the triangle of expectations.

Essentially, the smaller the project, the more likely the desired project quality will be achieved. The opposite is also true: the bigger the project, the more likely its desired quality will not be achieved.

In general, governments do not face the above constraints considering Money and Time. Deliverables are leading. This focus on deliverables will create a loss of perspective on the project’s quality (my blogs on focus vs perspective). Also see my recent blog on change blindness.

Hence, innovation requires a micro focus and a macro perspective on Quality. A focus on quantity (eg, the number of deliverables) is (very) unlikely to result in an overall project quality as desired. I suppose this is the reason why government innovation is indeed an oxymoron.

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” A quote by Confucius (551-479 BCE), a Chinese philosopher and politician.

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger (2001) by Daft Punk
artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Work it harder, make it better
Do it faster, makes us stronger

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise.


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