As a follow up to recent posts regarding our Summit on Service Innovation, I thought I’d comment briefly on a topic I heard discussed today in the halls of my university. The topic was transportation innovation, and why in the US we seem to see less of it than in other countries, particularly Sweden. Carolyn McAndrews, a scholar at the University of Wisconsin, has done a lot of comparative research in this area and has a journal article currently under review on the topic. It turns out that there are a few structural differences between the two countries that might explain the differences in innovative transportation projects. First, planners in Stockholm are responsible for a specific area of the city, and within that area, they dictate planning for all aspects of what we would call a comprehensive plan. This allows the planner to become very intimately aware of local conditions and desires, and perhaps even to establish a trustful relationship with citizens, perhaps enabling him or her to promote more innovative projects.
Secondly, for some reason, the Swedish government tends of support ideas at their theoretical stage, whereas here in the US we tend to want proof of a concept before we’ll invest in it.
I found this discussion interesting, and relevant for Living Labs, because it seems like we could come up with the best ideas possible but for some structural and/or cultural reasons, never allow them to see the light of day. Rather than to dwell on this, I think we should view it in the positive and recognize that with some restructuring around our decision making metrics, we might better harness our country’s innovative spirit.