Handbook of Innovation in Public Services
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Handbook of Innovation in Public Services

Edited by Stephen P. Osborne and Louise Brown

Leading researchers from across the globe review the state of the art in research on innovation in public services, providing an overview of key issues from a multi-disciplinary perspective. Topics explored include: context for innovation in public services and public service reform; managerial change challenges; ICT and e-government; and collaboration and networks. The theory is underpinned by seven wide-ranging case studies of innovation in practice.
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Chapter 12: Against all odds: bottom-up entrepreneurship and innovation in the Department of Defense

Nancy C. Roberts and Carrick Longley


How does an entrepreneur in a large military bureau innovate from the bottom up in a context that is change resistant, and even when change does occur, it tends to be top-down driven and rewarded (Spulak 2010)? What does it take to push a new idea forward to ensure a successful innovation in this context? These questions form the backdrop to our case study of Lighthouse – a new tool and technology for military data collection and analysis. Our goal is to document the entrepreneurial and innovation processes that enabled a university student to launch what some are calling a ‘game changer’ in how the military collects and analyzes data in its field-based operations. From an organizational perspective, these questions are important for several reasons. Virtually all studies of military innovation point to the difficulty of innovating in organizations that are ‘intrinsically inflexible, prone to stagnation, and fearful of change’ (Grissom 2006, p. 919). As Stephen Rosen (1991) notes, not only are large military bureaucracies difficult to change, ‘they are designed not to change’ (p. 2, emphasis added). To ensure civilian control and coordination of national security policy, all major innovation models in the military have been found to follow a similar pattern. All assume innovation requires pressure from external authority, and when initiated they are kick-started from the top down (Grissom 2006; Spulak 2010).

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