By Steve Kelman

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The Lectern: One more time -- How is the fear industry stifling good government?

I have been cleaning my office -- which I do periodically, only inevitably to have it turn into a pigsty again -- and came across an interview I had clipped from the FCW June 4 issue with Michael Jones, chief technology officer at Google -- and thus, presumably, an expert on what it takes to create a successful, high-performance organization. I see why I cut it out. Here's an excerpt: "Innovation is not done by a special kind of people. There is no innovation gene -- everybody is innovative and creative. What is the case (in government) is that everybody is not brave enough, or maybe they're too wise and realize that if they make a mistake, they're doomed. "One of the crippling philosophies that I've seen in government is that if you're in a managerial or leadership position, you only get one mistake per career. But if no one embraces failures, there would be no one who could ride a bicycle, for example. If you were allowed only one chance, you would try real hard, you would fall down, you would cry, and they would take the bicycle away. And there would be nobody riding bicycles." This is why Washington's fear industry of IGs, watchdogs, many reporters, and some politicians, which (sincerely) sees itself as a force for good government, is in reality having the opposite effect -- it stifles good government.

Posted by Steve Kelman on Oct 02, 2007 at 12:08 PM


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