One reason it’s hard for civil servants to innovate?

By Tony Collins

James Gardner has seen for himself the institutional obstacles to innovation. . He was, in effect, chief innovator [CTO] at the Department for Work and Pensions. He now works for Spigit.

In a blog on the need for innovators to have “courageous patience” he quotes the British politician Tony Benn who used to be Minister of Technology in the Wilson government:

“It’s the same each time with progress. First they ignore you, then they say you’re mad, then dangerous, then there’s a pause and then you can’t find anyone who disagrees with you.”

He also quotes Warren Bennis who, he says, established leadership as a credible academic discipline:

“Innovation— any new idea—by definition will not be accepted at first. It takes repeated attempts, endless demonstrations, monotonous rehearsals before innovation can be accepted and internalized by an organization. This requires courageous patience.”

Patience comes easily in the civil service but courage? The courage to spend a little with inventive SMEs rather than a lot with large systems integrators? Perhaps this is why it’s so hard to get central departments to innovate.

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