With full credit to Clayton Christiansen and his bestselling book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma” let’s explore how his concept plays out in the government contracting industry. As Mr. Christiansen points out, “successful, outstanding companies can do everything ‘right’ and yet still lose their market leadership – or even fail – as new, unexpected competitors rise and take over the market.” The good news for those who don’t innovate well? The government market lags well behind the private sector in this area. The bad news for all of us? Our government solutions and programs are expensive, cumbersome, and lag behind much of the modern world.
In government contracts, most of what is sought is based on what has always been done. Granted, a generalization, but many government agencies are risk adverse. Contracting officers are taught to procure based what has once been purchased and value solutions based on what other government agencies have already bought. This works if you are comfortable in the status quo. This does not work if your objective is to solve new problems and look for new solutions.
There are a few pockets of government stretching beyond this old model and these groups deserve our kudos (and your attention). The HHS Idea Lab is one. The Procurement Innovation Lab at the Department of Homeland Security is another. And, of course, the recently announced White House “Office of American Innovation” is only a few months old.
While we wait for these pockets to become the norm, there are things we can do today:
Or… you can continue to do your business just like it has always been done. Watch your back, however. As Mr. Christiansen teaches, your reign of the status quo will not last forever. And, the only thing worse than losing your advantage is to not see it coming.