Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

A Guide for Innovative Public Servants

ARCHIVES
Lightspring/Shutterstock.com

A new report offers guidance to government executives and innovators and finds that they are already changing how agencies operate and deliver services.

Released by the IBM Center for the Business of Government, “The Persistence of Innovation in Government: A Guide for Innovative Public Servants” mines data from the 28-year history of the Harvard University Kennedy School’s Innovations in American Government Awards. The author, University of Toronto professor Sandy Borins, seeks to discern how agencies have found ways to introduce innovations in the face of obstacles inherent to the process: the risk of failure, and the extra time, energy, persuasion and improvisation required to bring an innovation to fruition.

Borins finds that innovation is alive and well in government. He illustrates in the report how traditionally hierarchical government agencies can initiate and embrace change, and identifies ways that innovators can succeed within their organizations.

While “innovation” rarely appears in the title or job description of a public servant, Borins finds that many feel the urge to innovate—born of a belief in government as a solution, a belief that government can find better ways to deliver services. The report also finds that innovators are more likely to be strategic planners than adaptive incrementalists. They face bureaucratic resistance, external opposition and funding shortfalls—and frequently must overcome obstacles through persuasion, accommodation and persistence. In addition, innovations originate at all organizational levels and often result from proactive problem solving.

Data from the Harvard University Kennedy School Awards reveal that during the past 20 years:

  • Interorganizational collaboration has increased
  • Both shared and overall funding have increased
  • The innovation agenda has changed in every policy area
  • Media and public interest in innovation have increased
  • Innovations are being evaluated more often
  • Innovations are being transferred more frequently

The report offers numerous recommendations, both for government executives and internal innovators, who can influence an organization to change.  For internal innovators, the report recommendations include:

  • Find and collaborate with kindred innovators
  • Be persistently flexible and flexibly persistent
  • Define indicators and measure progress
  • Recruit fresh perspectives to review the innovation program, and respond to critics

And for government executives:

  • Support local heroes
  • Protect public servants associated with unsuccessful innovations
  • Support performance management systems because they encourage innovative problem solving

The report concludes by emphasizing the importance of partnerships among awards programs, academics and practitioners as key to spurring innovations. Moreover, it calls for continued research on innovation in government.

Borins argues it is crucial to understand trends in innovation more deeply and to identify jurisdictions or organizations that support and encourage multiple innovations over time.

(Image via Lightspring/Shutterstock.com)

Gadi Ben-Yehuda is the Director of Innovation and Social Media for the IBM Center for The Business of Government. Previously, he was a Web Strategist for the District of Columbia's Office of the Chief Technology Officer. He has taught creative, expository, and Web writing for more than 10 years to university students, private-sector professionals, and soldiers. He has an MFA in poetry from American University, has taught writing at Howard University, and has worked in Washington, DC, for nonprofits, lobbying organizations, Fleishman-Hillard Global Communications, and Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.