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

How Agencies Can Tap a Rising Generation’s Impulse to Do Good

The federal workforce is confronting an issue that has been studied for years: the imminent retirement of many of its most skilled and qualified employees, and the need to replace them with young talent. Organizations such as the Partnership for Public Service have offered specific recommendations to agencies, some of whom stand to lose nearly half of their senior leadership in the coming years. Meanwhile, the newly formed Commission for Military, National and Community Service is soliciting input about how to encourage young people to consider public service careers.

Many of tomorrow’s public servants can be found in the nation’s nonprofit organizations and congregations, which provide needed services to neighborhoods and communities. Each year, about 60 million adults in America, including about 6 million high school and college students, volunteer their time to work with community organizations. However, the recent report,”Good Intentions, Gap in Action,” published by the University of Maryland’s Do Good Institute, contains good news and bad news about the future of the volunteer workforce.

The good news is that young people entering college are more likely than they ever have been to express strong interest in helping others in difficulty and becoming community...

The Value of Failing

Every kid has that moment when she realizes that the adults she admires aren’t perfect. Few children ever learn, however, that the same is true for the inventors and intellectual giants whose distinguished portraits permeate their history textbooks.   

As it turns out, recognizing that visionaries such as Albert Einstein experienced failure can actually help students perform better in school. In 2016, the cognitive-studies researcher Xiaodong Lin-Siegler of Columbia University’s Teachers College published a study that found that high-school students’ science grades improved after they learned about the personal and intellectual struggles of scientists including Einstein and Marie Curie. Students who only learned about the scientists’ achievements saw their grades decline.

On Monday, the Teachers College announced the creation of the interdisciplinary Education for Persistence and Innovation Center, which will be dedicated to studying failure’s educational purpose. Lin-Siegler, who’s overseeing the center, will expand on her own research into the failures of successful people, starting by interviewing Nobel laureates. The center will convene researchers from various academic fields and countries in its effort to better understand how failure can facilitate learning and success.

Research on failure as a motivator is limited, though the evidence that does exist...

Finally, a Definition Of Workplace Inclusion That’s Truly Actionable

Once a fringe initiative, diversity in the workplace is now taboo for companies not to promote.

Countless studies show that diverse teams are more innovative, better at making decisions, and literally boost bottom lines. Yet more often than not, diversity programs become window dressing: buzzwords posted on websites and exchanged in boardrooms to make organizations (and their executives) appear progressive, without actually investing the time, money, and experimentation necessary to drive long-lasting change.

Even when such resources do exist—whether in the form of diversity officers or procedures that strip out hiring bias—meaningful cultural change can be elusive. That’s because for women and people of underrepresented minorities to genuinely feel like they belong, inclusion has to be the responsibility and priority of every employee. It’s a reality Amber Baldet, former head of the blockchain team at JPMorgan Chase, knows all too well. While she’s one of the most innovative minds in cryptocurrencies, Baldet says she has been overlooked and underestimated due to her gender on countless occasions.

And yet, asking whether the crypto world is sexist may be the wrong question. In an interview with MIT Tech Review, Baldet said that gender representation at most developer-focused...

How to Identify Emerging Leaders

During a recent workshop, one of the participants asked me how they could do a better job identifying prospective (I prefer the term: emerging) leaders in their organization. It’s a great question and one that merits consideration by every leader in every organization.

In my executive management life, I struggled with the groupthink approaches I saw for identifying so-called high-potentials and emerging leaders. These were most often thinly veiled political discussions wrapped in the cloak of some noble calling: find those who will lead us in the future. Unarguably, the sessions identified some rising stars in our organization; however, when it came to uncovering emerging leaders, the results were weak.

An alternative and I believe much more effective approach emerged over time as I worked with my direct managers to find ways to strengthen our effectiveness identifying and developing emerging leaders. While there are many factors involved in this important work, our group developed a process and vocabulary around the three lenses of awareness: personal, people, and situational. We also created some key ground rules for navigating this process, with emphasis on observation and continuous coaching.

Additionally, we worked hard to challenge ourselves and invite others to challenge our...

Want To Be Happier? Little Changes Can Help

A new book explains some of the factors that contribute to happiness and offers practical tips on how to increase our own happiness.

That might mean more sleep, a more regular exercise schedule, or practicing meditation or mindfulness. It could also mean understanding concepts such as hedonic adaptation or mindsets. The book—When Likes Aren’t Enough: A Crash Course in the Science of Happiness (Grand Central Life & Style, 2018), by Tim Bono, lecturer in psychology at Washington University in St. Louis—tackles these ideas while offering strategies on how to make small changes in our lives that can go a long way.

The book closely follows the structure of Bono’s undergraduate course, “Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness,” and includes nearly 100 testimonials from students chronicling their experiences incorporating Bono’s strategies.

Bono supplements the book with nearly 100 testimonials from students chronicling their experiences incorporating Bono’s strategies, which he’s based in empirical data from his field. His students’ honest commentary—which Bono collected over years from stories they have shared with him in person or through weekly “thought paper” exercises—confronts the struggles as well as payoffs an individual may face when experimenting with different...