There has been a debate in the United States over the last several years around whether or not the government should institute a program of mandatory government service like other countries in the world.
In most countries this takes the form of military service, but some allow work in other government capacities to satisfy the obligation.
The United States does have mandatory government service, it’s called jury duty but it probably amounts to only a number of days over the course of a lifetime. In addition the government has implemented schemes to help address acute shortages. AmeriCorps was founded to help alleviate the shortage of teachers in the inner cities by forgiving some or all of participants college loans.
But I have never heard anyone pitch mandatory government service as an opportunity to create competitive advantage.
Instead, governments engage in repeated wealth transfers to consulting companies for consulting projects that too often don’t translate into sustainable results. What would happen if a government instead harnessed what citizens were truly good at for long enough to affect real accountable results in service to their country?
I write this not to advocate mandatory government service, but to call attention to the fact that countries and regions are going to increasingly compete in order to preserve their standard of living, and that those without a public sector innovation strategy will lose out to those who find a way to continuously become more efficient.
After all, every government must collect tax dollars to operate, but the more efficient a government can be, the fewer tax dollars it needs to collect in order to provide basic services. The lower the resulting tax rate the more profitable companies can be and the more likely they will remain in or be attracted to locate in that country.
As a result, governments should look at all possibilities of improving their efficiency through government innovation. Innovation, after all, is not only a necessary or desirable goal for businesses but for governments and individuals as well.
Could an innovative mandatory government service program be one way to achieve competitive advantage?
Braden Kelley is a Social Business Architect and the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. Braden is also a popular innovation speaker and trainer, and advises companies on embedding innovation across the organization and how to attract and engage customers, partners, and employees.