McClure: How to succeed (and fail) at innovation

The zeitgeist that leads to periods of innovation waxes and wanes, and it’s not necessarily tied to any president or external factors, says Dave McClure, associate administrator of GSA's Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies.

Innovation is on the rise, and the tangible results are easy to see, said McClure, the luncheon keynote speaker at the Management of Change conference sponsored by American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council.

"Some of the engagement platforms [such as Data.gov] that have been created are just revolutionary," he said.

In the interest of accelerating innovation, GSA and the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy are considering launching a website, innovation.gov, for the crowdsourcing of new ideas, he said.

Should they decide to launch the portal, McClure would still advise agencies to keep their innovation efforts low-key. "Do it without all the eyes and ears and expectation on you," he said. And do it with a focus on small, immediate needs, he added. "I think large-scale innovation is interesting, but it's the least successful."

Another common pitfall is misunderstanding what innovation is. Technology "becomes the focal point of innovation discussions, when it reality a lot of it is how we deal with people and how we deal with process," he said.

Borrowing a phrase from GSA Administrator Martha Johnson, McClure said his operating ethos is "fail big." It's OK to try for something ambitious and fail, but only if the failure leads to insight that contributes to later success, he said.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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