What startups can teach agencies about IT

Just like Silicon Valley startups, federal employees can foster a culture of innovation by taking baby steps forward, according to new tips from the Health and Human Services Center for New Media.

Start with something simple and small, Andrew Wilson, new media strategist for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, wrote in a blog entry on May 23.

“Avoid making enormously complex plans that require weeks, months or even years of planning before actually launching something that can actually be tested with real users,” Wilson wrote. “The fact is that nearly all successful services, platforms or apps started as something simple and small.”

While you might have heard that failure is easy to overcome and a building block to success, it's not always so easy, he wrote.

“Failure at the very beginning is demoralizing and also hard to learn from. It is far better to get something very small working first - then fail,” Wilson wrote.

Break up larger problems into several small problems, Wilson suggested.

“It is fairly intuitive that you will learn more from doing 25 4-hour trials than you will from one 100-hour trial. Wherever possible, consider how you can break up large problems into small ones and how you can sequence through the solution,” Wilson wrote.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Fri, May 25, 2012 OccupyIT

What the USG/Civilian can learn from the private sector (or even DOD) makes up 90% of the knowledge of mankind. They simply aren't that interested in changing the way they work. This is forced on them by visionary bosses that they try to out wait or undermine. Or by low level technologists that try and sneak the stuff in. I have to say at least half the mid level USG managers can manage an agenda much less innovation. Thanks for the article, though, Alice!

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