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Are Small Budgets Good For Innovation – Part Two

Spending in the federal government is down. Sequestration has put a serious drain on many agency resources, but could the money squeeze actually create a breeding ground for innovation?

In part two of our interview, with the first Chief Innovation Officer at NARA, Pamela Wright, told Chris Dorobek that the smaller budgets are forcing a more modular approach. (Click here for Part One of the Discussion.)

“I completely agree. You learn such valuable lessons from those small pilots that you can apply to the larger projects. I see these pilots as the speed boats out ahead and they are learning lessons and bringing information back so that the mothership of the agency incorporates some of the best stuff. They save money by being a pilot in and of themselves, but the lessons learned save money on large projects,” said Wright.

Why Does Innovation Matter?

“Innovation has to matter. Innovation is the way we deal with the world that we are living in today because of expanding technology and user expectations. Access to our records not that many years ago meant that people called, came into our buildings or eventually visited our website. What it means now is we go out to where people are online. We go to the platforms where people are living, including places like Wikipedia. Their expectation is that we are out there. The technology is ever-changing, it is a river of technology that is coming down and if you don’t get todays technology then you aren’t going to get tomorrow’s either because they build on top of each other,” said Wright.

  • Example of Success: “If you weren’t comfortable with Flickr a few years ago, you are not going to get more comfortable with Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr. If you haven’t looked into Instagram you aren’t going to have any comfort with Snapchat,” said Wright.

What does innovation and democracy have to do together?

“Providing access to the records of the federal government is a cornerstone of democracy. How we provide those records, how we are transparent, how we allow for participation and collaboration, those are vital to what we do as an agency and what we do as the federal government, and that is where innovation really matters,” said Wright.

  1. Ground innovation in the mission of your agency. You can’t be argued with as long as you are trying to implement the mission of the agency. If innovation isn’t ground into your mission it is seen as flaky.

  2. Do innovation as a pilot. No one will get hurt if we do this for three months and come back and report on how we did. Using the pilot method is really effective.

“It is a thrilling time to work in the federal government,” said Wright.

For more on the role of innovation in government check out –DorobekINSIDER LIVE: From the Frontlines of Innovation 2.19 at 12pm…

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