Innovation During Emergencies

Consistently, looking for and applying the latest technology to your job in emergency management is very difficult. You may find yourself in a vortex of information and no clear way to get your innovative idea deployed in the field.

There is a strategy that can help you find leading-edge strategies and technologies and apply them to your next deployment.

In Salim Ismail’s book, exponential organizations, he suggests creating a small team and isolating them from the “corporate immune system” of the large organization. Government organizations are a classic example. When a new innovation is tabled in a government organization, the bureaucracy or “immune system” will go into overdrive and attack and disarm and disruptive innovation.

“The organization’s immune system will go on overdrive to attack and disarm any disruptive innovation”

According to Ismail, what the company doesn’t understand is that there is a broader shift that will change their type of organization, worldwide. I believe the shift in size and complexity of emergencies and disasters is the shift that has disrupted these organizations.

Ismail describes the 5 steps you can take to get your own innovative project off the ground before your next incident. They are:

1. Create a small team (to avoid the immune system response). If you want to transform an existing process or leapfrog a current technology, you need to create a small team and isolate them from the large organization. Contracting a team may be the best way for government.

2. Establish direct support from and a direct formal link to the executive. Whatever you do, do not settle for any other reporting line below the executive.

3. Spin out versus spin in. If you are successful, spin everything out and create a new role in the organization; don’t try to wedge the emerging technology back into the enterprise solutions. A new solution won’t fit in neatly anywhere and internal politics will ensue, especially if you are cannibalizing an existing project.

4. Invite the most disruptive change-makers from within your existing organization to work on your project. Management expert Gary Hamel has said that young people, dissidents, and those working on the geographic and mental peripheries of your organization are the most interesting, free and open thinkers. Look for the rebels. The good news is that they won’t be difficult to find.

5. Build your project completely independent of existing systems and policies. That includes actual physical separation. Try hard not to use existing premises or infrastructure unless they deliver a huge strategic advantage. As with any new project, it’s critical for a new team to operate as a greenfield operation, relying on stealth and confidentiality.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

If you can find those young people that are willing to challenge the status quo and protect them from those that would prefer everything the way it is, you will have a great advantage on your mission to be more effective at managing emergencies.