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

You Can Now Reprogram Your Sleep Patterns With Your iPhone When You Travel

Business travelers, factory workers, and grad students all know how hard it can be to regain your circadian rhythm. But a new app is promising to help us plan for, and even shorten, the time it takes to adjust to new time schedules.

Typically, the body can adjust its schedule an hour forward or back each day. This lag means that it’s possible to feel the effects of a trip from New York to Tokyo for nearly two weeks. Using a new app called Entrain could cut 12 days of jet lag down to just three or five, says Daniel Forger, a biomathematician and the project’s lead researcher. “It’s up to you whether you want to focus those 3-5 days before or after you travel,” he told Quartz.”If you have an important meeting, or if you are a musician or athlete, you probably want to adjust beforehand.”

The effects of light on the circadian clock have been well studied, and researchers have generated vast amounts of data showing how exposure to light at different times of the day can shift your internal clock forward or backward. “There have been enough studies in people that they have ...

Why Data Sharing Is the Future of Government

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Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy were only seven years apart, but the emergency response made it seem like the storms were centuries apart. The response to Katrina in 2005 was somewhere between a mess and a punch line, while images of the Sandy response in 2012 were far more positive.

As Government Executive Media Group correspondent Joseph Marks writes in the most recent issue of Government Executive, an increased emphasis on the sharing of data and responsibilities is the reason the Sandy response was so much more effective than that of Katrina. Data sharing makes such a recovery “look less like individual efforts from an alphabet soup of agencies and more like a unified response,” Adrian Gardner, chief information officer at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said in an interview with Marks.

Hurdles to sharing still remain, Marks noted in a recent Excellence in Government podcast interview, but groups and agencies are pushing for more data sharing to help citizens and  government operations. Data sharing is especially effective between different levels of government, he added, noting that data sharing initiatives are helping state, local, federal and tribal governments work together to ...

Adopting Best Practices Can Be a Bad Idea

Q: I have been tasked with developing a national quality assurance review program for auditing services. Can you share with me best practice metrics to evaluate these programs? Currently, regional offices and service centers are using similar metrics but with different processes for evaluating quality assurance programs.—Anonymous

Often, challenges across the federal government seem eerily familiar. If other agencies and departments have already tackled a similar challenge and have implemented a great solution, why not seek out these solutions and adopt them?

The idea of copying best practices to improve performance is not new. Indeed, it is discussed in almost every corner of government. From military logistics to education reform, look to other governmental and business entities for approaches that work. Yet, all too often, adopting best practices lowers performance instead of improves it. When is it a good idea to seek out and copy best practices, and when is it not?

Consider the goals of designing an automobile that is both safe and powerful. One way to accomplish these goals might be to purchase a Volvo, a car known for safety, and put into it the engine of a Corvette, known for its power. At first glance, inserting ...

The Most Valuable Management Degree Doesn’t Exist

Once upon a time, the field of medicine was riddled with danger. Doctors made up cures based on individual experience, inflicting horrors on patients—lobotomy, anyone?

Everything changed with the advent of evidence-based medicine. With randomized, controlled trials and careful longitudinal studies, we learned about effective treatments and risky behaviors. We discovered that smoking causes lung cancer and ibuprofen reduces pain.

Today, the field of management is not far from where doctors were before evidence-based medicine. We have leaders and managers choosing practices based on their own intuition and experience, when it’s much more reliable and valid to make decisions based on many data points and experiences. The good news is that over the past few decades, a new field of evidence-based management has emerged, and we can now use the power of controlled experiments and rigorous long-term studies to abandon ineffective practices and choose better ones.

Here’s a taste of what we know:

  • In hiring, instead of designing interviews around each job candidate’s unique backgrounds, it’s better to ask every applicant the same questions
  • Across industries, stars are between 40 percent and 115 percent more productive than their peers, but these differences can be wiped ...

Sweden: The New Laboratory for a Six-Hour Work Day

Corn-flake capitalism has come to Sweden.

In 1930, in the throes of the Great Depression, cereal magnate W.K. Kellogg decided to conduct an experiment. He replaced the three daily eight-hour shifts at his plant in Battle Creek, Michigan with four six-hour shifts. The results? The company hired hundreds of new people, production costs plummeted, and employees operated more efficiently, learning to prioritize leisure over work. Vestiges of the system remained in place until 1985.

Now the Swedish city of Gothenburg is considering a similar experiment. The governing coalition has proposed a year-long trial that would divide some municipal workers into a test and control group at the same pay rate, with the test group working six-hour days and the control group working the traditional eight. (It's unclear how, or if, a lunch break will factor into the scheme.)

"We'll compare the two afterwards and see how they differ," Mats Pilhem, city councilor and Left Party member, told The Local. "We hope to get the staff members taking fewer sick days and feeling better mentally and physically after they've worked shorter days." He added that increased efficiency at the workplace could create more jobs in Gothenburg. The ...