While the sequester will do a lot of short damage — for example the loss of $29 million or so in legal aid funding, the real risk is to the culture of innovation.
To the extent that managers in courts and legal aid programs respond to cuts by reducing investment in innovation and experimentation, the long term damage will be much greater.
Moreover, the risk is exacerbated if the sequester numbers become the “new normal.”
The only way I can think of to counter this is to work to build into all of our organizations a “culture of innovation.” All too often today, when we want to do something new, we hire a new person, set up a new department, or go for a new grant.
Instead, we have to find ways, each day, and in every activity, to ask ourselves how we can do it better. Here are some thoughts on how to move such institutionalization of innovation forward:
- Make sure that agency budgets include an “innovation line”, that is protected whatever happens
- Ask every staffer at every level to try something different, and report it to her or his colleagues
- Continue long term planning, even if the money is not there in the short term
- Keep looking for possible savings and use them for innovation
- Stay alert for areas that seem inefficient, and brainstorm transformative changes in those areas
- Give awards for innovations
Please share examples and ideas in the comments.
I think the Google example of 20% time is a useful one: having all employees take 20% of their time for their own creative projects, not directly tied to their formal job description. That time has yielded some of Google’s great successes as a company. I also think having cross-pollination is such a key part of innovation, and a cheap one too! Making sure that the IT and tech- and social-focused people are talking to the people who are doing the litigation or working the front desk and having clarity about what are the problems that need solving, and what are the range of solutions and tools available. Those kinds of mutual education interactions serve multiple purposes: reminding everyone that everyone is an expert in something (not just the tech folks) and allowing unlikely people to imagine new uses for tools already in hand. All my time thinking about tech and media is proving surprisingly useful now that I’m thinking so much about the courts and A2J; I could go on and on and on about the possibilities here.