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Innovation Isn't Always Big

It's not always a matter of huge breakthroughs.

At today's Excellence in Government live event, Sydney Heimbrock, deputy associate director for strategic workforce planning at the Office of Personnel Management, offered a key insight during a panel discussion of OPM's Pathways federal hiring program.

"Small 'i' innovation" is really important to improving operations, Heimbrock argued. Not everything is the next iPad, she said. Many smaller-scale innovations consist of "simply improving on what's being done, or taking something from one context and applying it to a different context."

That's an interesting concept, in that it gives people even in highly structured organizations such as federal agencies permission to suggest small-scale improvements that could add up to big changes in the way government works. But it's also a bit daunting, in the sense that it means they can't use the lack of a really big idea -- or internal resistance when such ideas are proposed -- as an excuse not to continue to innovate all the time.

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