Applied Innovation: Creativity Through Competition

Competition can be thrilling and challenging. Here at GovLoop, we’ve all taken Gallup’s Strengthsfinder assessment, which measures an individual’s greatest professional assets. These can include strengths such as achiever, adaptability, discipline, includer, and many more. Many on our team scored high in the category of competition. Many of us, it seems, enjoy the thrill of the hunt, and are constantly looking to outdo both others and ourselves.

What better way to foster innovation and out-of-the box thinking than the excitement of chasing after status as ‘the best of the best’? Chris Smith is the Vice President for Technology at AT&T Government Solutions, and the Program Chair for the American Council on Technology and the Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC)’s Igniting Innovation event on February 5. Smith spoke with Christopher Dorobek, host of the show DorobekINSIDER, about how to spark government innovation through friendly competition.

The ACT-IAC is a nonprofit dedicated to fostering government innovation through technology that will host an event this Thursday, February 5th called Igniting Innovation, where 30 competitors will showcase their particular government technology innovation, and eventually attendees will vote for their favorites and one winner will be selected.

“We’re really trying to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of organizations, and how they’re bringing innovation to bear,” said Smith.

Encouraging this spirit is important in a government environment where financial constraints exist. “Constrained resources are real,” said Smith. “And so I think people will be finding ways to do things better, perhaps sometimes with the tools that are there – if it’s a new technology, a new process, a new way of engaging with the citizen – the result is extraordinary.”

Of course everyone wants to be recognized for their innovative efforts, but what’s really the end result of fostering this type of competition? The hope is that it will bring together and inspire government workers to discover new, emboldened approaches that they may not have thought of on their own. It’s also about sharing challenges that were successfully overcome and lessons learned from failed attempts.

The focus for the event is a very hands-on approach to government innovation, which Smith called ‘applied innovation’. Rather than talking about how to stir up government innovation as a broad goal, this competition seeks to highlight real-life examples of what kinds of innovation have been carried out recently.

“Some of these things are quote unquote small; they’re not inventing the telephone, but they have a huge impact on people’s lives,” added Dorobek.

This takes us back to the recurring theme we see in government innovation about the importance of cross-agency communication and knowledge sharing. In terms of fostering innovative government strategies, according to Smith, “it’s really about sharing across the organizations.”

A great way to be creative is to make unlikely comparisons, so the ACT-CIO’s event will be hosting a diverse range of government innovators across sectors. For instance, two of the innovators showcasing will be the Transportation Security Administration and the Utah Hunting and Fishing Mobile App – and believe it or not, it’s not crazy to suggest that they can learn about innovation from each other.

So, things will surely be getting fierce this Thursday, February 5th in downtown D.C. Government innovators: may the best man or woman win!

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David B. Grinberg

Camilla, thanks so much for sharing this important info. If it’s one thing the public sector can certainly use more of, it’s innovation and collaboration via a cross section of agencies. You “hit the nail on the head” with this post!