New Innovation Lab planned at USAID

Innovative techniques and breakthrough technologies are often (maybe too often?) aimed at increasing convenience, efficiency, or productivity on a very personal, micro scale.

So, this is exciting news coming out of the US Agency for International Development (USAID). They’re organizing previously ad hoc or disparate research and development investments into an innovation group. Way cool.  I’d personally love to see a focus on clean water and infrastructure development but they haven’t yet called to ask me for my opinion.

From an organizational perspective, in the best of worlds, this new group would bring leverage, visibility, and accountability to the process of solving these tough, intractable global problems.  We're all too familiar with the momentum-crushing pitfalls to avoid.  Rigorous approval gates, subjecting proposed projects to changing political moods, and initiating some “one size fits all” performance measurement approach will hamper more than help. 

Perhaps it’s counter-intuitive but intentionally underfunding (by traditional yardsticks) the management and oversight functions might be a path to early—if not long-term—success.  In addition to being cutting edge in their approach, I hope USAID looks for light, agile organization and management structures to match.