Can you afford to take risks if you work for the government?
Any discussion on innovation in the public sector soon turns to the problem of risk.
Surely public services are simply too risk averse to take big risks? And anyway shouldn't we want them to avoid risks with things like traffic light systems or nuclear safety?
Sometimes the discussion ends there with a vaguely despondent fatalism. But the best answer is to see risk as something to be managed: how it's managed is bound to vary depending on the stage that an innovation is at.
When ideas are at an early stage, or being tested out on a very small scale, it should be possible to take much greater risks than when you're implementing ideas at the level of a whole service.
Yet the irony is that public organisations are often scared of small risks, but all too willing to take massive risks with new and untested policies.
Making a fetish of evidence too early on can kill off creativity. But too little attention to evidence is bound to lead to wastage and failure. Again the key is to be clear about what's appropriate at different stages and scales.