Legislating innovation?

Yesterday I learned from the Innoblog that the website: is collecting votes on different change initiatives including one for a Department of Innovation. Here's how the possibility is framed by it initiator, Alain Rostain on the site:
We need to harness the creative imaginations of all americans as individuals and collectives to overcome the great challenges of our time. We know we need to do this, but do we know how?

Yes. We can:
- help leaders articulate the need for innovation and focus American's creative energy on the areas that matter most and can most benefit from creative solutions
- help individuals collaborate to come up with even better ideas than they already have or could come up with on their own
- manage ideas and the innovation process so that the most promising ideas are identified, and the very best implemented successfully
- engage more and more americans in contributing creatively to solving our challenges

What we want: to participate in and/or lead an innovation task force or innovation department to bring this about.
At first I totally agreed with a comment by Kurtosis Jones: "Isn't this an oxymoron? A govt beauracracy to manage innovation?" But then I realized how much innovation is already nurtured in our economy and culture:
  • Philanthropies like the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Skoll Foundation review nominations or submittals before awarding grants to innovators
  • Venture capitalists read business plans and observe presentations before funding selected startups.
  • Inventors spend every spare minute from their day job working in garages, basements and empty warehouse space on prototyping new models, designs, technologies and tools
  • Web 2.0 sites provide opportunities for innovators to upload their ideas and get votes, rankings, comments, tags and trackbacks to encourage them further
  • Corporations encourage sustaining innovations for new products, refinements to existing products, streamlining operations, cost savings etc by providing time, recognition and rewards
  • Design firms, theater and film production companies, and every other creative endeavor - nurture the creativity of each employee involved in the work
  • Communities stage art exhibits, film festivals, poetry readings, craft fairs and talent shows to increase the exposure, reputations, incomes and inspirations of local innovators
A Federal program to extend innovation practices to more citizens, neighborhoods and problem areas could easily build on all this momentum, these successful practices and this existing acceptance of innovation in our culture. I searched the books I've read recently for mention of Innovation in the title and found twelve books! I'll explore this possibility of legislating innovation further in the next several posts.


  1. Kia ora Tom

    Legislating innovation. Hmmm.

    Innovation is a bit like research, except only more so, if you catch my steam. It can be fostered - there is no doubt about that. But can its seed be recognised? That's the thing.

    Innovation is done by innovators. Innovators tend to be born, not made, trained or even taught. There are many examples of innovators who just simply arrived with little fostering or support.

    In fact, a lot of them seemed to thrive on the sheer lack of all that. Einstein, Edison, Faraday, Carnegie - none of them would have shaken the world with their background or their promise of genius early in life. None of them were promising scholars. But as innovators they were head and shoulders above the nations.

    To find some of the finest innovations we only have to look at the art world. Art history is chock full of stories of impoverished budding artists, many of whom continued their life's work through poverty, innovating their way into the art history books.

    I'd take my hat off (if I had one) to any authority that claimed to legislate innovation and that brought it to fruition. I guess they only have to find the ways.

    Catchya later
    from Middle-earth

  2. Thanks for your thoughts Ken. You're right the seed of an innovation is rarely recognizable and cannot be fostered directly. Yet when there's a fertile context in nature, the seeds benefit from growing conditions without individualized attention.

    My concern with relying on adversity to provoke innovations as we've done throughout the industrial era, is that it usually spawns excessive consumption, abuse of non-renewable resources, polarizing of communities and corruption of power. By providing a nurturing context, I'm optimistic that the innovators will be in the frame of mind to consider the big picture, serve the customers with respect and give back to the communities in ways that make them resilient.

    Have a reflective day!