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Does government appreciate innovation? Plus Dorobek’s 7 Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

You can find all of our programs online: DorobekINSIDER.com and GovLoop Insights at http://insights.govloop.com.

But up front: Does government appreciate innovation?

There has been much discussion and talk of innovation in government in recent years. Some organizations are even naming “chief innovation officers” across federal, state and local governments. And President Obama’s chief technology officer Todd Park created Presidential Innovation Fellows, building on the Code for America model where ‘innovators’ come into government for a short stint to focus on a specific issue.

But does government get it? Does government care? Does innovation matter?

To be honest, I’m not sure. Just one data point was a recent (and exceptional) program hosted by AFFIRM — the Association of Federal Information Resource Managers. The topic: Agency Innovators: Ideas and Technologies to Remake Government. And it was a great panel made up of GSA’s Lena Trudeau and several of the Presidential Innovation Fellows. (We will have highlights on GovLoop’s DorobekINSIDER in the weeks ahead.)

The most unfortunate thing about the program: The anemic turnout. There were about 60 people there, and only a handful of those were government, who get in free.

I’m not sure if people have innovation fatigue… or don’t know if they can actually make a difference… It was a great conversation.

To that end, we’re going to talk innovation in a few weeks on February 19’s DorobekINSIDER LIVE. (If you haven’t joined us before, GovLoop’s DorobekINSIDER LIVE is an hour long live discussion with thought leaders on important issues… and, as always, we focus on helping people do their jobs better. Yes — we really believe that all of us are smarter then each of us individually, so… this is our opportunity to share. It is at 12n ET and it is free. Sign-up here.)

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what we should discuss… who should be invited… You can post here or any of the ways to reach me.

Reader feedback: Government workers don’t need ‘resilience training’

Earlier this week, we highlighted the United Kingdom’s proposal to provide top workers with ‘resilience training’ to deal with all the issues that government employees have to deal with these days. On my Facebook page, I had an insightful comment:

No. Government workers need the support of their leaders, and the confidence of citizens in their dedication to doing good work. The Big Lie of government incompetence is contradicted by the solid results of most government most of the time. But the “negativity bias” inherent in our media focus (“dog bites man is not news; man bites dog is news”) provides a skewed and detrimental view of government organizations and workers.

It’s time to celebrate the good enough, and encourage the pursuit of excellence. Too many, sadly including last year’s Excellence In Government event, seem to forget that the Feds had a great era of improvement BEFORE “Reinventing Government.” The work of the Federal Quality Institute, and the thousands of government workers who engaged in achieving sustainable improvements from the late 1980s through early 1990s, needs to be revisited.

My commitment is to government that is “even better tomorrow,” not government that has to consider “resilience training” for its beleaguered workers.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. The Hill: Lew: Debt limit deadline is end of February. “Congress will likely need to raise the debt limit by late February to avoid a missed payment, according to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.”
  2. Wall Street Journal: U.S. Accuses Security Background Check Firm of Fraud. “The Justice Department on Wednesday accused the government’s largest private security background check contractor of defrauding the country of millions of dollars by methodically filing more than 660,000 flawed background investigations—40% of the cases it sent to the government over a four-year period.”
  3. The Fiscal Times: DOD’s $178 Billion Efficiency Plan a Total Failure. “Three years ago, the Defense Department kicked off a program to improve efficiencies across the Pentagon.”
  4. Federal News Radio: OPM to RIF 300 workers from HR Solutions office. “The Office of Personnel Management is laying off more than 300 employees from its Human Resources Solutions office.”
  5. Federal Times: Auditors OK DoD conference policy. “The Pentagon’s conference spending policy generally aligns with governmentwide standards, and in some instances, exceeds them, a review has determined.”
  6. Washington Post: Federal employment projected to drop through 2022. “The federal workforce is likely to shrink by about 13 percent over the next nine years, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics projections.”
    1. More from GovLoop’s DorobekINSIDER: Insights from Tom Fox from the Partnership for Public Service on how to deal with the shrinking workforce.
  7. Federal Times: Agriculture installs BYOD capabilities. “The Agriculture Department is one step closer to supporting employees’ personal devices on its network.”

Before we finish up… a few items from the DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder… yes, we’re trying to help you make your water-cooler time better too…

  • Government Technology: HHS CTO Bryan Sivak Unveils New Initiatives in Open Data: Whether the conversation is about federal health data or health data housed at the state and local levels, major changes to that information may be on the way, according to Health and Human Services CTO Bryan Sivak. Speaking Tuesday at the department’s Open DataFest in Sacramento, Calif., Sivak called attention to major changes on the horizon for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). He also called on California officials to join the growing movement of open data in health care, an industry he estimated at $2.8 trillion per year and roughly 18 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. “We’re actually going through one of the most fundamental shifts in our history since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965,” Sivak said, referring to big data’s impact on national health care. For the first time, he said, insights from big data are offering actionable and innovative solutions to health care by illuminating inefficiencies in how health-care providers serve patients, and by providing an easier way for patients to understand their health-care needs.
  • FastCompany: It Doesn’t Matter Whether Or Not You Like Your Open Office: Just because you find your open floor plan annoying, doesn’t mean it’s not creating more collaboration and better ideas
  • The Fiscal Times: Wild Prediction: Facebook Will Suffer a Quick, Viral Death:
    • A new study by researchers at Princeton University’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering gives a deeper meaning to the idea of “going viral” when it comes to social media. Using epidemiological models — those used to study the spread of infectious diseases — and Google search data, researchers John Cannarella and Joshua D. Spechler looked at the rise of social networks like Facebook, where, they write, “adoption is analogous to infection and abandonment is analogous to recovery.”
    • Their conclusion (see the PDF here) paints a dire prognosis for Facebook: The social network, which turns 10 next month, has passed the peak of its popularity and is already in decline. That idea may not be new given all the reports about how younger users are abandoning the service, but the speed at which the study expects Facebook to collapse is surprising and dramatic: “Extrapolating the best fit model into the future suggests that Facebook will undergo a rapid decline in the coming years, losing 80% of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017.”

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David B. Grinberg

Awesome post, Chris!

You and your show always provide such helpful/timely information and fresh perspectives on the cutting-edge issues that gov folks need to know about. Thanks for all that you and Emily do — and keep up the great work in the year ahead!

Dale M. Posthumus

I would generally say “no”, especially as a govt gets larger and more complex. I am not talking about govt workers in general; I am talking about the overall organization. Read two recent articles in the Washington Post: “A Watchdog Grows Up: The Inside Story of the CFPB” (1/11/14) which talked about how the stand-up was led by people who sought to be very innovative, but as the bureacracy settled in, they became frustrated and left. And “Federal Senior Executives Growing Weary and Risk Averse” (1/24/14) about how Federal senior executives are becoming more risk averse, afraid to take chances for fear of damage to their carrers.

There are bright spots, but for govt to change dramatically, it will take a top down movement to either train, appoint, or hire managers who want innovation, who support their staff, who are willing to fight the bureaucracy, who are willing to go to their managers to go to Congress/Legislature/Parliament to get things changed.

And, of course, the bureaucracy, which is both required and needed, must be tamed for the mission and not for the bureaucracy.