A Word about Innovation

Bert and Phyllis Lamb’s interest in innovation might be best described as a concern for efficiency.

Phyllis designed homes for individual clients and for sale. Bert built them. She and Bert were looking for ideas, improvements, short cuts, systems of order, and cost benefit analyses and that would make the construction process faster, easier, and less expensive.

Later, when Bert was Superintendent of Parks and Golf Courses for the City of Palm Springs he pursued innovation in the same way: How could play on the city golf course be made faster, how could employee work schedules result in less “down time?”

Although their focus was on efficiency, for the Lamb Prize we have a more expansive view. Spiro (Politics as the Master Science, pg. 161) observed that “…the most awesome problems facing mankind can be solved, if they can be solved at all, only through politics.” We might write a litany of problems but any such list will seem very limiting a few years from now. Thus, being innovative means identifying a problem that is amenable to politics. With that in mind, what might count as an “innovation” for the Lamb Prize?

First, the solution submitted might be a new efficiency. Second, following the tradition of the American founders, the solution might be institutional engineering; new institutional design.  Third, the innovation might be mechanical, as in a new technique. An example from recent news articles is “big data,” mining meta-data. Fourth, we might think of innovation in terms of new policy. Fifth, an innovation might be a new grand idea, a new philosophy. Sixth, an innovation might be a new way of understanding or conducting the science of politics.

As we evaluate an innovative candidate submission for the Lamb Prize we will not exclude submissions addressing implementation or the politics of administration. Neither will we decline submissions that try to solve a problem in the science of politics.

This entry was posted in Guidance for Applications, Guidance for Nominations, Innovation. Bookmark the permalink.

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