Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Innovation and government (or large organizations generally)

This post considers a sensitive subject, that of innovation and government. Innovation may conjure images of Silicon Valley, engineers building satellites and things of that nature. In the main, that is not what I am thinking about here. I think information professionals including archivists and librarians can do some of that though working with software developers, engineers and the like. What I have more in mind is taking existing technologies and bring that into government.

Whether that be exploring uses of Web 2.0 or being more willing to experiment with new practices, it appears that such practices are discouraged in government, or perhaps large organizations generally. In some ways, government resistance is easy to understand. The set of incentives that public servants live by condition them to reduce risk, be careful with image and so forth. This tendency combines with a certain tendency of librarians - the aspiration toward perfection - in an unhelpful mix. The contrast between the playful and innovative spirit embodied in some in the field like Stephen Abrams (link to his blog), then again he is Vice President of Sirsi Dynix, so one should not be surprised that he focuses on innovation.

On some level, it just feels frustrating to see all the great innovation happening in the United States and not seeing anything like that in Canada. Canadian libraries and archives are getting there but the spirit of caution is making things move slowly. Such is my perception, at least. I would be delighted to learn of counter-examples.

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