A space for government ‘innovators’ to share ideas and engage in dialog about alternative funding models for eGovernment services and how no-cost eGovernment is currently benefitting agencies nationwide.
Can Government Be Innovative? If So, How?
May 3, 2013 at 3:31 pm #178455
In the Partnership for Public Service’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government, they examined how federal employees feel about innovation, particularly in their own agency. The analysis also shows which agencies are doing well and which agencies are falling behind. The numbers looked like this:
The government-wide innovation score dropped by nearly two points to 61.5 out of 100.
36% said creativity and innovation are rewarded in their agency
- 46% said employees are rewarded for providing high quality products and services
- Down 3%, 43% said employees have a feeling of personal empowerment with respect to work processes
For the third year in a row, NASA was the top-ranked large agency on innovation with a score of 77.
Overall, most agencies saw their innovation scores fall (slightly) between 2011 and 2012, although some did improve.
In a time of budget cuts, we need to be doing things differently. Creative thinking from all levels of agencies, across all of government, is essential to delivering better services to the public with fewer resources.
Can government be innovative? If so, how can we encourage more collaboration, creativity and “outside the box” thinking?
May 7, 2013 at 3:11 pm #178465
I still hold out hope that the government can be innovative, even in our very restrictive environment. True innovation is very difficult, given our rules-based/compliance environment and oversight by not only by management, but by special interest groups, the press, and Congress. I am a firm believer in using social media and ideation systems (e.g. IdeaFactory, IdeaHub, etc.) to provide an avenue for submitting and vetting good ideas. A major barrier is that some agencies have still not realized the value of these “crowd-sourcing” systems yet.
True revolutionary innovation may not be possible in government, but perhapse limited, evolutionary innovation can happen, given the right environment, leadership support, and social networking tools.
May 8, 2013 at 1:36 pm #178463
Innovation is possible in areas that are literally outside of the box. These are spaces, like social media, where policy hasn’t caught up to the latest technological advancements. Lawyers and policymakers haven’t gotten around the regulate these new tools so “proceed until apprehended” as an old boss of mine once told me.
Innovation can also occur in areas far removed from HQ. It’s no accident that so much innovation happens in the “field”. Away from headquarters, and closer to customer, field staff are more likely to come up with innovative solutions. Outside of the DC bureaucratic box, field staff are free to innovate – at least until HQ hears about it.
But, if you work in a large bureaucracy, and hope to change an established procedure, your chance of success is close to nil. You’ll have to fight decades of rules and policies. You’re trapped in the box.
May 8, 2013 at 1:58 pm #178461
Stacey Coburn YonceParticipant
I think creating a culture of innovation requires an agency to work outside its hierarchy. Senior leaders have been there too long, or are too busy trying to keep up with deadlines, to initiate or advance innovative ideas. Innovation is more likely to come from newer employees, but it must be adopted and implemented by those in authority. If senior leaders are open to innovative ideas, and they can find ways to solicit them without working through agency hierarchy, I think the ideas are there. The time is right – reduction in resources throughout government makes this a good time to think about how to do things differently.
May 8, 2013 at 2:01 pm #178459
I concur with Terry Hill. Not only is innovation very difficult because of the excessive rules-based, compliance is the only thing that matters environment and oversight culture, processes, and results, but this oppressiveness is steeped in the workforce. Think about reading Daniel Pink’s book, Drive. There is a fundamental deficit in leadership understanding of what motivates truly passionate performance that starts with imagination and creativity.
I don’t think the differentiator is the scale and size of innovation (revolutionary versus evolutionary). This is another way of saying I will try a little innovation as long as no-one notices, or we can only innovate until the innovations collide with the rules, regulations, CYA, compliance systems.
I don’t think social media is the answer either. Often social media is providing a release valve for pent-up frustrations with the existing constraints. Collaboration apps are one tool that can be used, but these cross organizational boundaries which is a big no-no if you are hot on rules, regulations and compliance.
As government leaders, we need to take on the challenge of recreating our organizations’ cultures. Success as leaders is not simply avoiding GAO scrutiny, Washington Post articles, and Congressional committee accusations. We need to develop government leaders who have a passion for organizational change (rather than defending the status quo), who have an arsenal of tools that they share with their staffs, who have an appreciation of the actions and strategies they can employ to empower (yes, really give power) to their staff, who actually recognise that their leadership is about much more than “staying within budget.”
Changing the organizational culture, employing incentives (and they don’t have to be monetary bonuses, in fact, they should be) for creativity and passionate engagement, creating engaging and learning workspaces (again which only requires imaginative thinking rather than jamming everyone into cubes or isolated islands) – these are the sorts of things that will change the balance on these creativity and innovation numbers.
May 8, 2013 at 3:36 pm #178457
Although a number of factors can inhibit innovation and the creation of a culture of innovation one of the biggest in government is the fear of failure. Based on my 30+ years of experience in the federal government, success is too often rewarded lightly while failure is usually punished heavily. Instead, we need to think of innovating as being a process of learning in which we discover what does and does not work and then implement the former. A well-designed pilot of a promising concept should be appreciated for the knowledge gained, even if that particular concept does not work. That new knowledge could be what leads to the next highly successful innovation.
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