Innovation in Public-Service Institutions

    Most innovations in public-service institutions are imposed on them either by outsiders or by catastrophe.
    Institutions such as government agencies, labor unions, churches, uni- versities and  schools, hospitals, community  and  charitable  organiza- tions,  professional  and  trade  associations,  and  the  like  need  to  be entrepreneurial and innovative fully as much as any business does. Indeed,they may need it more.
   The rapid changes in today’s society, technology, and economy are si- multaneously an even greater threat to them and an even greater opportu- nity. Yet public-service institutions find it far more difficult to innovate than even the most “bureaucratic” company. The “existing” seems to be even more of an obstacle. To be sure, every service institution likes to get bigger. In the absence of a profit test, size is the one criterion of success for a service institution, and growth a goal in itself. And then, of course, there is always so much more that needs to be done. But stopping what has “always been done” and doing something new are equally anathema to service institu- tions, or at least excruciatingly painful to them. Most innovations in public- service institutions are imposed on them either by outsiders or by catastrophe. For example, the modern American university in the mid- nineteenth century came into being when the country’s traditional colleges and universities were dying and could no longer attract students.

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