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Consultation Response

BEFORE I DEAL WITH YOUR SPECIFIC QUESTIONS, THERE ARE TWO QUITE UNRELATED MATTERS THAT I WOULD LIKE TO ADDRESS.

FIRST, BEING A COLLEGE TEACHER I HAVE NO ACCESS TO SERIOUSLY HIGH-TECH COMMUNICATIONS DEVICES AT MY WORK PLACE AND CANNOT AFFORD THEM AT HOME. SO, THOUGH I HAVE LONG BEEN PROMISED E-MAIL AND INTERNET FACILITIES, I AM FOR THE MOMENT DEPENDENT ON THE FAX. THE PERTINENT EFFECT IS THAT I HAVE NEVER ACTUALLY SEEN The Innovation Journal. NONE THE LESS, PEOPLE TELL ME THAT IN CYBERSPACE MUCH ATTENTION IS PAID TO (AND THEREFORE CARE MUST BE TAKEN TO ENHANCE) WHAT PRINT PUBLISHERS COMMONLY CALLED "PRODUCTION VALUES." SINCE I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IJ LOOKS LIKE, I ALSO HAVE NO IDEA OF WHETHER OR NOT IT NEEDS IMPROVEMENT, NOR WOULD I BEGIN TO KNOW HOW TO IMPROVE IT IF IT NEEDED IT. I DID TAKE NOTE OF THE FACT, HOWEVER, THAT ONLY "CONTENT" AND "AUDIENCE" ISSUES WERE RAISED IN YOUR NOTE AND I WONDERED IF "DESIGN" AND "FORMAT" SHOULD BE CONSIDERED AS WELL.

SECOND, I THOUGHT I'D IDENTIFY A THEME THAT WILL BE IMPLICIT IF NOT EXPLICIT IN MY ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS AND THAT MAY BE OF SOME IMPORTANCE WHEN COMING TO CONCLUSIONS ABOUT WHAT IS TO BE DONE. THE THEME IS THAT DREARY OLD DEBATE BETWEEN "THEORY VERSUS PRACTICE." I WORRY THAT SOME TIME MIGHT BE LOST (AT LEAST AS FAR AS MY COMMENTS ARE CONCERNED) IF I DON'T SAY AT THE OUTSET THAT I HAVE NEVER KNOWN THE DIFFERENCE OR, MORE ACCURATELY, THAT I HAVE NEVER ACCEPTED THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEM. THEY SIMPLY DO NOT CONSTITUTE AN INSTANCE OF EITHER/OR PRACTITIONERS WHO DISDAIN "THEORY" DO NOT (LITERALLY) KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING; THEORISTS WHO ARE INDIFFERENT TO THE PRACTICAL EFFECTS OF THEIR IDEAS ARE DOING NOTHING. SO, I'D ADVISE A NICE MIX OF CONTRIBUTIONS WHICH EXPLORE THE ENTIRE THEORY-PRACTICE CONTINUUM AND WHICH, WHEREVER POSSIBLE, DISCUSS BOTH THE NORMATIVE IMPLICATIONS OF EMPIRICAL PIECES AND THE EMPIRICAL CONSEQUENCES OF NORMATIVE DECISIONS.

NOW THEN, WITH THAT OFF MY CHEST, I'LL PROCEED:

Q1. How to make IJ the best little journal ... ?

THE QUICK ANSWER IS: HAVE NO FEAR. THE CYBERWORLD OF ELECTRONIC JOURNALS IS BORDERLESS, OVERCROWDED AND INTELLECTUALLY MALNOURISHED. TO SURVIVE IS EASY ENOUGH. TO BE NOTICED IS MORE DIFFICULT. TO BE GOOD (TO SAY NOTHING OF BEING THE "BEST") IS NOT ONLY "IMPOSSIBLE" BUT, UNLIKE THE TASKS OF THE U.S. MARINES, CANNOT "TAKE A LITTLE LONGER." IT IS IMPORTANT TO MAKE AN IMPACT AS CLOSE TO INSTANTANEOUSLY AS POSSIBLE, FOR THIS IS NOT QUITE THE KIND OF ENTERPRISE THAT CAN GROW SLOWLY AND STEADILY OVER THE YEARS.

WHAT IS NEEDED IS GOOD QUALITY CONTENT THAT WILL GRAB THE READERS' ATTENTION. THIS MAY BE INVOLVE RECRUITING STAR-QUALITY AUTHORS OR, AS A SUBSTITUTE, PROMINANT POLITICIANS AND DIVERSE INTEREST GROUP ADVOCATES FROM GREENPEACE TO THE FRASER INSTITUTE WHOSE WORK IS AVAILABLE, FREE AND GENERALLY OPEN FOR ADAPTATION, ABRIDGMENT AND EVEN SUBSTANTIAL RE-WRITING.

I EAGERLY SUPPORT YOUR IDEA THAT PART OF IJ SHOULD BE ABOUT "DEBATE" (AS YOU MENTION UNDER Q. 3 [F]). I BELIEVE THAT A REGULAR (PERHAPS A SEMI-ANNUAL) FEATURE COULD BE A KIND OF "VIRTUAL FORUM" IN WHICH PROMINANT ACADEMICS, POLICY MAKERS AND INTERESTED EXPERTS COULD CONTRIBUTE SHORT PAPERS ON A SPECIFIC THEME AND ENTER INTO A MODEST TECHNOLOGICALLY MEDIATED SYMPOSIUM. THIS MIGHT INVOLVE GETTING, SAY, SIX PEOPLE TO WRITE ON A TOPIC, SENDING EACH CONTRIBUTOR THE OTHERS' PAPERS PRIOR TO PUBLICATION, AND FOLLOWING EACH CONTRIBUTION WITH BRIEF COMMENTS BY THE OTHER WRITERS. COLLECTING A NUMBER OF THESE (POSSIBLY WITH READERS' COMMENTS AS WELL) INTO A BOOK OR BOOKLET FOR SALE WOULD NOT BE IMPOSSIBLE AND COULD EVEN SUPPLY A LITTLE REVENUE (IF WANTED OR NEEDED).

SINCE THIS IS ALSO THE ERA OF "TALK-BACK," THERE SHOULD BE PLENTY OF SPACE FOR INDIVIDUAL READERS TO SHARE SHORT COMMENTS, CONCERNS, AND CRITICISMS. AS YOU SURELY KNOW BETTER THAN I, THIS TECHNOLOGY CAN DO RATHER INTERESTING "INTERACTIVE" THINGS (WHICH IS PART OF WHAT I WAS CONTEMPLATING WHEN I MENTIONED FORMAT AT THE BEGINNING). ALTHOUGH I UNDERSTAND THAT EXCESSIVE BELLS, BEEPS AND WHISTLES MAY NOT SEEM ENTIRELY RESPECTABLE (THOUGH, FOR ALL I KNOW, MAYBE IJ IS ALREADY BRISTLING WITH LINKS TO THIS AND THAT, AND ABSOLUTELY ALIVE WITH INTERACTIVITY) A DISCRETE USE OF WHATEVER IS AVAILABLE OUGHT TO BE CONSIDERED.

2. The market ... (to be crass!)

a. Public sector/alternate service delivery agency managers/policy/program public servants, PIPEs (Public Interest Private Enterprise), PINAs (Public Interest Non-profit Agencies), academics, students?
b. Local, provincial, national, international government?

You want to know whether IJ should seek to attract either "Public sector ... etc." or "Local ... etc." readers.

WHY ASK? WHY NOT PRODUCE THE BEST LITTLE JOURNAL POSSIBLE (AS YOU AND YOUR EDITORIAL BOARD WOULD LIKE TO SEE IT) AND SEE WHO LIKES IT? AGAIN, HAVE NO FEAR. IF IJ PROVIDES ATTRACTIVE, ACCESSIBLE AND EXCELLENT MATERIAL, ALL SORTS OF PEOPLE WILL SEEK IT OUT. THE PROBLEMS WITH STARTING OUT WITH AN OVERLY DEFINED TARGET AUDIENCE INCLUDE THE FACTS THAT: (A) YOU MAY MISREAD THAT TARGET AUDIENCE; (B) YOU MAY IGNORE A POTENTIAL AUDIENCE; (C) YOU MAY BECOME TOO TENTATIVE AND WORRIED THAT DEVIATION FROM PAST EXPECTATIONS MAY PREJUDICE YOUR DESIRED READERS AGAINST YOU. IN SHORT, IJ MAY BE INSUFFICIENTLY INNOVATIVE.

INSTEAD, THEN, OF BEING RESTRICTIVE AND TRYING TO IDENTIFY A "NICHE" AUDIENCE, WHY NOT BE TRUE TO YOUR "VISION" AND IMAGINE AN INCLUSIVE AUDIENCE INCLUDING ALL THE CATEGORIES THAT YOU HAVE IDENTIFIED IN Q. 2 (I.E. [A] AND [B]) AND GO AFTER THEM ALL, AND OTHERS INCLUDING, FOR INSTANCE, JOURNALISTS AND BROADCASTERS?

OF COURSE, YOU MAY ALREADY HAVE ANSWERED YOUR OWN QUESTION WHEN YOU SAID THAT YOU WANTED THIS CONSULTATION PROCESS TO YIELD AN EDITORIAL BOARD THAT "CAN SECURE ARTICLES FROM THE MUNICIPAL, PROVINCIAL/STATE AND FEDERAL/NATIONAL LEVEL IN MANY COUNTRIES." NONE THE LESS, I CONTINUE TO EMPHASIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF INCLUSIVITY.

Q. 3 What to cover?

a. What should the IJ cover?
- Only innovation, narrowly defined; public administration reform more generally; local, provincial/state, national, international?
- Articles, speeches by professionals, academics, students, management consultants?
- How should the agenda at the beginning be organized?
- Subject areas: the learning organization, the innovation process, examples of innovation, government subject areas e.g. health, criminal justice, defence...
- One way/interactive?
b. Please provide suggestions for topics
c. Suggestions for authors
d. Suggestions for books/reports to review
e. Suggestions for humour
f. Suggestions for topics to debate and who could debate them.
g. Who could review articles on what subjects?
h. Which other sites (include addresses) should we link to?
i. How can we contribute to knowledge of best practices without staff?
How would we weed out enthusiasm from genuine improvement?
j. Who is interested in innovation? names, addresses, phone and fax numbers and email addresses, please, if you have them.

REGARDING SUBQUESTION (A), I WON'T REPEAT MYSELF. THE IDEAL ANSWER IS "ALL OF THE ABOVE." MORE PRAGMATICALLY, THE CONTENT WILL DEPEND UPON THE CONTRIBUTIONS AND THE MAIN CRITERION SHOULD BE QUALITY. PUTTING IN A LOUSY ARTICLE JUST BECAUSE SOME AREA IS APPARENTLY BEING IGNORED IS NO WAY TO RUN A JOURNAL.

AS FOR SPECIFIC SUBJECT AREAS OR "DEPARTMENTS," THE ONES YOU HAVE NOTED ARE FINE AND, AT LEAST IN THE EARLY STAGES SHOULD NOT BE EXPANDED BEYOND WHAT IS PRACTICABLE. STILL, I'D SUGGEST A COUPLE OF THINGS: (I) TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION - WITH NO NECESSARY PROHIBITION ON CONTRIBUTIONS FROM ARTICULATE NEO-LUDDITES; (II) INNOVATION AND SOCIAL ISSUES - WHAT COMES TO MIND IS A RECENT ANNOUNCEMENT THAT THE ONTARIO MINISTRY OF HEALTH IS CONTEMPLATING PUTTING EVERY OHIP MEMBER'S COMPLETE MEDICAL RECORD INTO A CENTRAL DATA BASE WITH THE ANNOUNCED INTENT OF MAKING SURE THAT, FOR EXAMPLE, ONE DOCTOR DOESN'T PRESCRIBE A MEDICINE THAT IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH ANOTHER MEDICINE THAT THE PATIENT HAS RECEIVED FROM ANOTHER DOCTOR; HOWEVER, (PARANOID?) SCEPTICS WONDER ABOUT ISSUES OF DOCTOR-PATIENT CONFIDENTIALITY, PATIENT PRIVACY AND THE POSSIBILITY THAT SUCH DATA MIGHT BE USED IN THE EVENTUAL ASSIGNMENT OF PATIENTS TO PARTICULAR PHYSICIANS NOT OF THEIR OWN CHOOSING IN SOME FUTURE HEALTH CARE "REFORM."

REGARDING SUGGESTIONS FOR AUTHORS, TOPICS, MATERIALS FOR REVIEW, HUMOUR, ETC., I'LL BEG OFF FOR THE MOMENT BUT I'LL BE HAPPY TO SEND SOME IDEAS IN THE VERY NEAR FUTURE.

Finally, regarding items:

(g) who reviews? -

IT SEEMS TO ME THAT WHAT MAY BE IN ORDER IS A "WORKING" EDITORIAL BOARD IN WHICH SOME OF THE EDITORIAL DUTIES WOULD BE DELEGATED TO A FEW MEMBERS (PERHAPS A "FEATURES," A "FORUM," A "FEEDBACK," AND A "REVIEW" EDITOR);

and

(i) sorting out enthusiasm from genuine improvement and the overall issue of the absence of staff -

IT ALL DEPENDS ON WHAT YOU CALL "MERE ENTHUSIASM" (WHICH I TAKE MAINLY TO BE GOOD IDEAS INCOMPETENTLY INTRODUCED OR DESCRIBED) AND "GENUINE IMPROVEMENT" (WHICH GETS US INTO THE RUNNING DEBATE WE HAVE BEEN HAVING FOR YEARS, I.E., DOESN'T WHAT COUNTS AS GENUINE IMPROVEMENT INEVITABLY REFLECT ONE'S POLITICAL VALUES).

FOR EXAMPLE, THE FORMER ONTARIO MINISTER OF CULTURE AND CITIZENSHIP, MARILYN MUSHINSKI INTRODUCED AN "INNOVATIVE" BILL 109 WHICH WAS DESIGNED TO REFORM ONTARIO'S LIBRARIES AND MAKE LIBRARY FUNDING AND ADMINISTRATION CONFORM TO THE IDEOLOGY OF THE "COMMON SENSE REVOLUTION" BY SLASHING FUNDING AND ELIMINATING CITIZEN PARTICIPATION ON LIBRARY BOARDS. AS A LIBRARY BOARD MEMBER AND A MEMBER OF THE ONTARIO LIBRARY TRUSTEES ASSOCIATION, I CONFESS THAT I WAS SURPRISED BUT NONE THE LESS HEARTENED WHEN THE NEW MINISTER, ISABEL BASSETT, WITHDREW THE BILL EVEN THOUGH IT WAS AT THIRD READING IN THE LEGISLATURE. THE TORONTO STAR, BY THE WAY, REPORTED THE POSSIBILITY THAT "THE BILL WAS KILLED TO MAKE ROOM ON THE LEGISLATIVE CALENDAR FOR OTHER BILLS MORE IMPORTANT TO THE TORY GOVERNMENT'S CORE AGENDA." MAYBE SO. STILL, IN THIS CASE, WHAT SOME WOULD CALL A "GENUINE IMPROVEMENT" WAS, FOR OTHERS A DISASTER IN THE MAKING, WHILE I AM PLEASED THAT WHATEVER THE MOTIVE, BILL 109 HAS AT LEAST TEMPORARILY BEEN SET ASIDE.

NOW, I DON'T EXPECT NOR WOULD I RECOMMEND THAT IJ UNDERTAKE THE HAZARDOUS AND QUITE POSSIBLY HOPELESS TASK OF DEFINING ITS POLITICAL VALUES WITH PRECISION. NOR WOULD I URGE THAT ANY SUCH CATALOGUE OF CONCERNS BE SET OUT IN PRINT. FEW INDIVIDUALS SUCCEED IN CREATING AN UNAMBIGUOUS INVENTORY OF POLITICAL BELIEFS AND FEWER GROUPS, APART FROM SHORT-LIVED REVOLUTIONARY CADRES OR TRADITIONALIST DEFENDERS OF TIMELESS DOGMAS, ACCOMPLISH ANYTHING MORE PRECISE THAN A NECESSARILY ELASTIC "MISSION STATEMENT." STILL, SOME SMALL DELIBERATION ON THIS MATTER SEEMS INEVITABLE SOMETIME.

THE PHRASE "GENUINE IMPROVEMENT" DOES, AFTER ALL, BEG THE QUESTION: "IN WHOSE INTEREST?" INCREASES IN EFFICIENCY, FOR EXAMPLE, OFTEN PRODUCE A DECLINE IN EQUITY. POLICY INNOVATIONS DESIGNED TO ASSIST BUSINESS MAY UNDERMINE LABOUR. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION MAY BE INTERPRETED AS UNNECESSARILY HAMPERING ENTERPRISE. ONE INTEREST'S PLEASURE IS ANOTHER'S PAIN, AND SO ON. FOR THE TIME BEING, THOUGH, IT MIGHT BE POSSIBLE AND, INDEED, PREFERABLE TO SET OUT WHAT IS REQUIRED BY THE MORE OR LESS APOLITICAL CRITERION OF "EXCELLENCE." IT IS POSSIBLE, FOR INSTANCE, TO COME TO A CONSENSUS ON STANDARDS OF THEORETICAL SOPHISTICATION, EMPIRICAL VALIDITY AND RHETORICAL SKILL IRRESPECTIVE OF THE IMPLICIT OR EXPLICIT NORMATIVE CONTENT OF A CONTRIBUTION. FOR THE TIME BEING, THEREFORE, IT MIGHT BE BEST TO ALLOW A MEASURE OF EDITORIAL FLUIDITY.

 

Updated November 02, 1998