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1/8/2004
06:16 PM
Lou Bertin
Lou Bertin
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The Observer: Of Sealing Wax And Cabbages, Of Innovators And Copycats

Being fashionable often benefits those who imitate, says Lou Bertin, but it's time to look at change and change agents and see just who's worth imitating.

As for Marsh and her supremely commendable quest, we're dealing with different forces. There's a federal government paying lip service to the embrace of E-government, but with no teeth to make its laudable goal happen. We have entrenched public servants too-often looking to preserve the status quo, for fear that change is their enemy. Most significantly, there are no economic or competitive imperatives impelling change.

Depressingly, the answer among the "experienced" federal government crowd in D.C. skews heavily towards windy self-defenses and utterly transparent citations of "unfavorable" contracting, procurement, personnel-management, technology-management and "customer needs" policies. Hooey!

Marsh, during her service to the state of Illinois, has proven that change can happen, should happen, and that both state agencies and constituents ultimately benefit. Her quest to have government let go of what it's bad at and let government-regulated outfits that are good at authenticating individuals authenticate individuals (think banks) handle same appears to be a no brainer. We'll see if the embrace of "best practices" takes Georgia far quickly or easily.

But what's important is that imitation of the sane, the sensible, or the proven remains valuable. Fashion or no fashion, if it works in one place, it's likely to work (in some adapted form) in another.

"Here's to the copycats" strikes me as an odd admonition, but it fits ... now more than ever, it seems. All that it's missing is the precursor "Here's to the innovators" wish, without which fashion trends would never be set.

At the end of this piece and at the start of the year, here's to both, wherever they may be and however they make a difference.


To discuss this column with other readers, please visit Lou Bertin's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about Lou Bertin, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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