How to Create Innovation in Government
Innovation in government doesn’t have to be radical — it just means producing better results with better tools. Sometimes innovation happens in leaps and bounds, sometimes it happens incrementally. Innovation can mean new technology, but it can also mean a change in processes, leadership and culture. So how can government agencies create a culture that encourages innovation in all these ways? GovTech explores the Conditions for Innovation in a recent article.
There are a few key conditions for innovation:
- Leadership: Thought leaders in any agency who are willing to advocate for change.
- Clear communication: Keep everyone engaged and vocal about ideas and risks.
- Acknowledging the challenges clearly: Start with a clear-eyed, objective definition of what needs to be fixed.
- Creativity: Welcome new ideas, and keep applying new tools in new ways.
- Cross-functional, non-hierarchical teams: It’s important to creative thinkers, as well as pragmatists. Include visionaries and bean-counters, high-level managers and on-the-ground foot soldiers. Keep a range of skills and attitudes on your team.
- Follow the leaders, not the masses: Look at who is trying and proving new approaches, rather than following most common practices. You don’t have to invent the wheel, just follow those who are.
- Small risks: Change can happen incrementally and in small tests. Try a pilot program approach and test what works.
What thwarts innovation? Avoid these barriers:
- Fear of failure: Change involves failures. New programs and new technology are rarely perfect. Tolerate a certain level of failure, and keep trying.
- Bureaucracy and hierarchy: Don’t let old structures and rigid leadership hold up ideas from new sources.
- Bad communication: Keep everyone informed about progress; be transparent about outcomes, even if they are failures; be clear about your goals and processes.
Read more about the Alliance for Innovation and Karen Thoreson’s perspectives on innovation in government at GovTech.