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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.

Panoramic from Paladin is part of the civic tech services revolution improving government performance by providing agile, secure, cloud-based solutions that improve processes. The Panoramic Program Knowledge Organizer helps public agencies to better track and communicate information about the projects and programs they manage. Contact us to learn more.

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