Is it just me or is there more news promoting entrepreneurship and innovation in government? We recently heard from the Pentagon about a plan to innovate from non-traditional sources using a self-funded R&D arm. Local governments are pursuing opportunities to embed serial successful entrepreneurs into agencies to be disruptive and unlock value. There is even an innovator’s conference, Collaborate, coming up in January where “Innovators in Entrepreneurship, Government, and Technology Converge”. The trend is good and exciting. As a management consultant, I am constantly trying to push our clients past just executing to compliance. Instead, we need to execute to excellence.
Unfortunately, the penalty for failure is too high and the reward for success is too low. Editors are anxious to publish the headline, “agency X wastes Y dollars for doing Z”. That risk could be acceptable if the reward was significant enough. I recently had a friend accept a new position that pays nearly $100,000 less for the opportunity to cash out on a lucrative exit event with a new start-up. That kind of opportunity doesn’t exist for the government employee. We need to change that. What if we created small, independently funded incubators of innovation within an agency? Some federal agencies are experimenting with these types of models. More are needed. This model should be used to attract talent, change the risk-reward curve, and ultimately provide the positive disruption needed in the government.