5 Ideas on White House Innovation Toolkit

Last week, the White House announced round 2 of the Presidential Innovation Fellows Program.

While five of the 9projects were continuations from the first one, there were 4 new projects.

One that caught my eye was “Innovation Toolkit”Developing an innovation toolkit that empowers our Federal workforce to respond to national priorities more quickly and more efficiently. Specifically, OPM, GSA, and State Department are working on:

-intuitive online collaboration platform
-providing opportunities for online learning and skills sharing
-offering dynamic libraries of case studies, guides, and “how to” documents – an “innovation toolkit”

I love this project and obviously a topic I care about as the goal of GovLoop is to create a knowledge network for government to help government do their job better. As I’ve worked on government knowledge sharing for almost 10 years now between GovLoop and Young Government Leaders, I thought I’d share my tips on building an innovation toolkit for federal employees

1) Focus on What’s Missing – Too often I find collaboration projects duplicate what’s already out there. Usually the issue isn’t a lack of a perfect tool but a lot of promotion of the tool, integration into workflow and culture, or even more simply the tool is a nice to have and doesn’t solve a huge pain (great comment from Forrester analyst Gil Yehuda on the topic).

Before I would get started on an innovation toolkit, I’d do an inventory sweep of innovation toolkits. There are lots of great online learning programs out there already (companies like Lynda and Skillsoft offer them, traditoinal players like Graduate School and Management Concepts, startups like Skillshare, OPM and DOD themselves with Defense Acquisition University & HR University, and associations and groups like GovLoop does lots of free trainings,). The same with case studies and guides and toolkits – there are a lot already out there being created by folks like Howto.gov, universities like UPenn’s Fels Center, places like GovLoop.

2) Define What Collaboration You Want – Continuing on point 1, there are already lots of collaboration sites already out there – from LinkedIn to OMB Max to GovLoop to internal ones like Corridor at State (and $5 million was spent on FedSpace a collaboration platform before eventually being cancelled). Great listservs already like GSA Web manager listserv. Once again, don’t duplicate what exists – what unique collaboration are you trying to do – are you trying to help individuals find similar colleagues, distribute similar documents, quick answers to questions? Most collaboration platforms only do 1 thing really well (even though they say they do them all). I’d focus on items that don’t exist & primarily focus on items where government is best to facilitate the collaboration (vs a non-profit or for-profit organization working on space) – areas where security is a concern, need for privacy, & places where there is no business model for associations/companies are where I’d focus.

3) Leverage the Audience You Have– Hardest part with collaboration projects is finding an audience to use the product. As this being a White House project, it will get lots of press that will help with users plus I recommend outreach to groups like OMB Max where there are already engaged govies. But I think there is an ever better untapped asset to leverage – Use the SAVE award participants. Each year, tens of thousands of federal employees share ideas to save government money (and you have to register to participate so you should have their email and contact information) – these are your target audience (engaged, innovative feds who want to share ideas to improve government)

4) Find What Users Actually Want – There are a lot of assumptions on what people want in collaboration. But you have to find the pain – what do federal employees really want? When collaboration is just a nice to have, it is rarely used. Also it is often small things – for Instagram, they succeeded by being really really fast (speed matters) and unique filters. Ask what is truly limiting them at work – what would cause them to be 10X more productive at work. Note – it’s probably not just another place to ask question – maybe they need help presenting their innovative idea to an upcoming internal meeting and need coaching or a guest speaker from another agency as well as sample similar presentations. Or maybe it’s mentorship and support.

5) What I’d Build – So my first few points were vague – here’s what I would build if in charge – these are my opinions on what is missing, pain points I’ve seen from GovLoop users, plus what I think government should uniquely do (versus allow a 3rd party like a nonprofit or GovLoop build)

Clarity.fm for Government – Clarity is a great site that allows entrepreneurs to set up time to speak with other entrepreneurs with relevant skills. I’ve used it 10 times and super helpful. There is nothing better than a quick 15 or 30 minute call on problem. I’ve found that’s what government employees often want to get someone in government working on same problem on phone and talk through issues. However, it’s still pretty hard to find those people & even if you do it can be unclear what’s best way to contact them.

Micro-tasking for Government – All government employees are on the same team and are happy to help each other out. Further, even when we are busy, we all can carve out 15 minutes to help out on outside project (it’s fun). I’d create a micro-volunteering for government. It has to be small (so don’t have to ask for boss permission) but small tasks from feedback on a website, or we need 4 people to help review applications for a gov’t scholarship. Sites like Sparked and Simpl can potentially help with that as well as simple listserv rules and sign-ups.

Docstoc for Government – Every day in government we are rewriting similar documents (OMB 300s, Project plans, IDPs, Executive presentations). We should share these documents and templates. Our GovLoop Risk Register Template did super well for example. I love sites like DocStoc,Scribd, and Slideshare to find relevant presentations to my field. By government doing it, this keeps issues of FOUO and more. Also you can weave in case studies and guides in here but I’d let that naturally come out of the community VS spend a whole lot of time on it.

What would you include in a White House Innovation Toolkit?

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