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What is All This Talk About Innovation?

Image via Violetkaipa/

Innovation. What is it? How is it measured? Can you plan it or is it organic? These are questions that consultants and leadership coaches have been wrestling with for years. As a buzzword, it’s overused. It elevates expectations and scares away progress. Yet, in practice, it’s more important than ever.   

Innovation has been a particularly timely topic for federal agencies. Amidst budget cuts and general uncertainty, management is forced to find new and less costly ways of achieving their missions. But innovation doesn’t require a reinvention of the wheel, as Sydney Smith-Heimbrock of OPM’s Innovation Lab said last week: It can be a new approach or, importantly, improvement of existing processes.

Over the next several weeks, we will work to explore innovation in the federal enterprise. We’ll be talking to “innovators,” tracking down those raising the bar, finding what’s working at agencies across the country and sharing what we learn with you.

As such, I’m keeping my eyes open for stories, events, and blogs that are worth sharing. In fact, we’ll be heading to a forum in Washington, D.C. on October 11, “The Innovation Imperative for Government: Leading in a Time of Uncertainty.”

I’m looking forward to hearing from the man in the hot seat—Dan Tangherlini, Acting Administrator at GSA—discuss the importance of innovation in a time of constant scrutiny and budgetary constraint. He’ll be joined by Dr. Jay Schnitzer, Director Defense Sciences office at DARPA, Shelley Metzenbaum, Associate Director of Performance and Personnel Management at OMB, and Dr. Bruce Chew from the Monitor Group. They’ll be exploring tangible tools and some very real best practices – from the private and public sectors – that can be leveraged across agencies.

If you cannot make it in person, check back next week for a review and highlight of key takeaways. In the meantime, if you know of people in your agency doing great and innovative work, send us an email or share their story in the comments—we want to tell the stories of the people and organizations you know that are making government excellent.

(Image via Violetkapia/

Bryan Klopack is the Executive Director of Research and Analysis for the Government Executive Media Group (GEMG). In addition to leading the organization’s research arm, The Government Business Council (, he also serves as the Program Chair for the Excellence In Government LIVE event and editor of Excellence In Government ONLINE blog, Promising Practices. Prior to joining Government Executive Media Group in 2008, Bryan worked for the non-profit The Council for Excellence in Government after completing a Public Affairs Fellowship and a brief stint working in the U.S. Senate.

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