Does Obama Need a Department of Innovation?

Posted by Connie French on Dec 15, 2008 10:31:11 AM

In a thought provoking blog post last week, New York Times Dot Earth blogger Andrew Revkin discusses the question currently on the table about whether Obama should consider creating a cabinet-level Department of Innovation.  A lively discussion followed in the comments to Andrew's post.  InnoCentive founder Alph Bingham wrote the following:

I ask myself, as Revkin does, if more bureaucracy is in the best interest of innovation. (Although, I fundamentally agree with Block’s cogent assessment and the basic tenets of his white paper). I have watched the proliferation of the “CXO” in the corporate world where X = knowledge, compliance, quality, innovation, integrity, etc. In most cases I prefer that the trait/skill/intent be baked in to the leadership choices.

In simple terms I hope that President Obama makes every critical appointment and selects EVERY cabinet member on the basis of their ability to be inventive, to explore new ideas and new processes and to make those ideas impactful to the lives of all humanity: to innovate.

It’s an exciting world and an exciting time. Some of the innovation we hope for has been demonstrated in the new processes that distinguished the Obama campaign and its ultimate effectiveness. The notion that ideas - like funding - can come from new sources and be widely distributed among the population is evident in the President-elect’s open call for input -- (linked in this blog).

My personal experience with new modes of open innovation have shown the unprecedented effectiveness of this approach. At the same time, the empowerment of new voices, MANY new voices, needs new ears to listen and to integrate into implementable actions.

Not only is this a time calling for innovation but one calling for “meta-innovation” – innovating on the ways we innovate. In our connected world, we can place an open call for new approaches and new solutions and generate incredible diversity. ( Of course, knowing which questions to ask (at the level where progress occurs) remains the rate-limiting skill. Now that we can openly source answers, lets focus America’s innovation talent on the scarce resource, “asking the right questions.”

— alph bingham, waltham, ma

What do you think?  Would adding another cabinet-level department add unneeded bureacracy without  much actual resulting innovation?  Would the country be better off seeking more innovators for all appointments?  Or is a Department of Innovation the best way to ensure that innovation is highly prioritized on the President's agenda?   Tell us in the comments!

Topics: Innovation Insights

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