When I think of the future of technological innovation and development, my mind first goes to artificial intelligence and robots. But technological innovation doesn’t have to be quite as grandiose, and digital innovation is present today. In terms of government, local, state and federal agencies are challenging their former risk-adverse natures and creating new innovation every day.
On Tuesday, we held a special edition of GovLoop’s DorobekINSIDER Live: Counting Down the Top Innovations of 2014. We ended the year with our last live webinar showcasing the top trends of 2014, including the Internet of Things, citizen engagement, cybersecurity, and more.
Host Chris Dorobek spoke with some industry professionals about the major innovations of the past year and what one’s we can expect to come. Panel experts included:
- David Bray, Chief Information Officer, Federal Communications Commission
- Jim Denford, Department Head of Management & Economics / Assistant Professor, Royal Military College of Canada
- Abby Wilson, Inaugural Director of the Innovation Lab, U.S. Office of Personnel Management
The program started with our very own Emily Jarvis, GovLoop’s Online and Events Editor, discussing her newly released GovLoop Guide, “30 Innovations That Mattered In 2014.” In this end-of-the-year issue, GovLoop highlighted the 30 top government innovations that foster greater citizen engagement and agency efficiency. This retropective guide also includes trends to watch for in the year to come that first materialized in 2014, such as the emergence of chief data officers and chief innovation officers.
Bray started by addressing why innovation matters in government. “We need to adapt how we do the business of public service for the challenges ahead because our world is changing dramatically,” he said. “That’s partly why we have a lot of respect and celebrate the start-up and entrepreneur culture because they are doing experiments for what will be the successful business models and the ways that we have public service and social value on the commercial side.”
This entrepreneurial spirit can be included in government industry action in the form of what Bray refers to as intrapreneurs. These intrapreneurs work within an agency that brings together older and new government change agents to navigate these new innovations and new adaptations. In terms of solving policy problems, Bray mentioned that these intrapreneurs must recognize that with new innovation adaptation comes the risk of alienating the people who have been trying to solve these problems for the prior years. It’s important to plan out how to bring together the existing people in public service using traditional approaches with new workers who will try new approaches.
The topic of high level executives, such as chief information and chief data officers, and the creation of various executive roles arose during the discussion. Denford emphasized how these various executive roles have emerged as a result of external societal pressure that an agency could not address with simple internal organizational operations. These public issues required help from higher level individuals, and “If we look historically at why sea-level executives have come to the fore at various times in our history, it’s based upon external pressures,” he explained. We create these positions because [these are] significant issue[s] at the current time for that organization. Whether they stick around is whether or not that is an enduring issue.”
When asked to describe and define innovation specifically in government, Wilson emphasized the importance of recognizing that innovation is not always large. Innovation can be incremental, and these incremental changes can create a large positive, aggregate effect. When people think of innovation, it is often in terms of major developments, such as the Internet, but these radical game changers are not always the norm. Wilson said that agency’s can use their small ideas and operations to improve the organization’s efficiency.
Wilson also stressed the importance of using more inclusive language in regards to government language. At OPM’s Innovation Lab, research revealed that the term innovation was somewhat alienating when try to engage change agents across all generations and at all levels. Leadership becomes very critical specifically when an organization is attempting to bring in new thinking. Wilson said that this alienation can be avoided once agency members recognize that the barriers between policy makers and the citizens affected by those polices seem more radical than they actually are. It’s important to look at innovation in a more inclusive manner in order for agencies to advance their goals by smaller steps.
Check out the full archive of DorobekINSIDER Live: Counting Down the Top Innovations of 2014. For more on this year’s technology trends and innovations, download our latest GovLoop Guide, “30 Innovations That Mattered In 2014.” And read other related GovLoop posts, “A Paint-By-Number Guide for Government Innovation” and “CIOs: Rock Stars of Public Innovation.”
Featured Image Attribution: Chris Isherwood