Innovation is not a dirty word

Innovation in nearly all professions is considered to be a good thing. Sometimes it’s not only good, it’s a requirement for market survival. Too often, though, we don’t think about the value of innovation in law enforcement. And, when we do, we almost cringe at the thought of it because we’re not exactly sure what it is or what it can do for us. Yet innovation in law enforcement is just as important as any other professional field, the difference is that we aren’t used to it and we don’t quite know what to do with it.

Virtually any process, policy, or procedure in law enforcement can be improved upon or implemented in a different way to help our agencies further their mission. As we seek to find better ways to serve our communities, innovation should be natural to us. Two factors, however, serve as impediments to sustaining innovation. First, most law enforcement agencies are not organized for innovation and therefore have not created innovation processes. This is likely due to the fact that most agencies are mature organizations and concentrate more on creating value from existing resources than encouraging creativity and innovation. Secondly, as most local government agencies are traditionally lean, they may be very good at minor modifications but fail at true innovation which usually requires some level of risk-taking. When resources are slim to begin with, the dedication of any precious resources towards efforts or ideas that don’t have certain results is not likely to happen.

What the best organizations have shown us, however, is that innovation is a natural component in the on-going search for efficiency and effectiveness. Organizations that embrace and encourage innovation not only develop effective new ways of approaching problems, they usually end up with increased efficiency as a result.