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6 Ways to Aid Innovation

How can you help your agencies’ innovation efforts? Here are six steps that can make your agency more agile, creative and resilient, as shared with GovLoop during a recent virtual event:

1 – Build bridges

Collaboration is an essential component of innovation, so agencies should nurture this quality whenever possible. The list of potential partners includes constituents, private sector companies, academic institutions and other agencies.

“My best advice is to play the long game by building relationships,” said Carlos Rivero, Virginia’s former Chief Data Officer. “You have to focus interest on a common goal that’s going to get you where you need to be.”

2 – Avoid easy fixes

Agencies should be wary of services and tools that promise to complete the heavy lifting for them. Rather than treating innovation as a one-time concern, agencies should assume that nurturing it will be an ongoing responsibility.

“Agencies go and look for a solution, product or tool,” Baan Alsinawi, the founder and Managing Director of TalaTek, said. “They think it will solve the problem, but truthfully that alone will never solve the problem.”

3 – Reduce complexity

Silos are often the Achilles’ heel to transformation. They create friction between end users and the goals they want to achieve, whether that’s analyzing data or driving better decision-making. But if you can’t eradicate silos, you can at least bore holes in them, said Stuart Booth, Chief Operations Officer at Cogility.

“Digital transformation is to put some of those complexities underneath the covers, and allow the users to have that seamless digital experience,” he said.

4 – Address skills gaps

Agencies need to get employees up to speed on the disciplines that are driving modern service delivery. That includes human-centered design, product management and agile. If nothing else, they must learn to speak the language used by civic tech companies, the GSA’s 18F and the U.S. Digital Service, said Chaeny Emanavin, Director of the California Health and Human Services (CalHHS) Center for Data Insights and Innovation (CDII) in the state’s Office of Innovation.

“Getting people comfortable thinking in those ways … aligns us with how the new workforce coming in have been taught to think in school,” he said. “It also gives longtime employees a fun new way to reframe their experience in how they do work.”

5 – Fuel the imagination

To help users define requirements better, IT teams must help them become more aware of key technology trends. The HHS OIG, for example, holds technology discovery days.

“It’s showing: Here’s the art of the possible, here is where some of the technologies are going,” explained Gerald Caron, the CIO and Assistant Inspector General for Information Technology in the Office of the Inspector General at the Health and Human Services Department (HHS). “It brings ideas, it may give us an idea of developing some requirements.”

6 – Embrace order

Agencies that cannot manage their share of information — by tracking, searching for, organizing, protecting or reporting it — are at a disadvantage. They must prioritize establishing protocols for accessing and using their data while adopting a more standardized, automated approach.

“Driven by the need to control the increasing amount of information that resides across any enterprise, many organizations can’t help but create order among content chaos,” said Rick West, Business Development Manager with Progeny Systems and 12th Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON).

This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s virtual training e-book, “Putting our Agency’s Innovation Into Action.”

Photo by Rodolfo Clix on unsplash.com

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