What MP3s can teach public services
There are two stereotypes about innovators. The first is of the outsider, alone in his garden shed (and yes, it is a ‘he’). The second is of the enormous corporation, with endless resources for R&D. Of course, both of these have produced amazing innovations, but so have a thousand other types of innovators. I was reminded of the danger of those stereotypes by a piece from Mckinsey on innovation and the US economy. Sure, it probably landed in your inbox too, but in case you didn’t read it, here’s the standout line:
“Intel’s Andy Grove writes that the United States has “misplaced faith in the power of start-ups.” German research labs may have created the MP3, but it was the scale-up capabilities of American technology firms that took this innovation and unlocked its value, from Apple’s iPod to file sharing to digital-media vendors like the iTunes store, and beyond. This ability to take basic innovation, deliver it at scale, and refine it with second- and third-order innovations plays a critical role in driving growth and jobs. ”
This is a helpful reminder for our public services that no matter how exciting and innovative our new entrants and start-ups, that alone cannot transform systems. It is just as important to ask how adaptive and responsive encumbent providers are and to support their role in transforming services. That is another reason why Innovation Unit speaks up for the potential of the leaders and organisations and running public services today for public service innovation. We believe in them, but we also know that any account of public service transformation that ignores them has very little chance of success.
By John Craig