Critical Read

7 keys to a successful innovation office

Shutterstock image: illuminated light bulb signifying an innovative idea.

What: A new IBM Center for the Business of Government report on "making innovation offices work."

Why: As the authors accurately note, "innovation is the buzzword of 21st century government, often cited as a silver bullet for everything from creating greater efficiencies ... to changing the way government does business." Yet while governments at all levels are trying to formalize innovation efforts with chief innovation officers and full-blown offices of innovation, there is little in the way of best practices or standard structures.

To address that gap, the report inventories a wide range of innovation offices at the local, state and federal levels, including shops at the departments of Labor, Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services. It groups the various efforts into six distinct organizational models, and identifies seven factors that are key to success, whatever the innovation structure:

  1. Committing to provide real resources.
  2. Choosing leaders carefully, then supporting those chosen.
  3. Creating a specific mission tied to specific impact.
  4. Communicating both internally and externally throughout the innovation life cycle.
  5. Finding internal allies and external partners.
  6. Establishing a clear innovation process as the outset.
  7. Seizing opportunities to share lessons learned with other innovation offices.

Innovation offices aren't always the answer, however. The authors also suggest metrics for gauging effectiveness, and outline other approaches that agencies might consider in lieu of a dedicated office for innovation.

Verbatim: "Many [innovation offices] use technology as a tool, but one in service of a larger mission that draws on a constellation of actors with a variety of skills, only some of whom are capable technologists."

Full report: http://www.businessofgovernment.org

About the Author

Troy K. Schneider is editor-in-chief of FCW and GCN.

Prior to joining 1105 Media in 2012, Schneider was the New America Foundation’s Director of Media & Technology, and before that was Managing Director for Electronic Publishing at the Atlantic Media Company. The founding editor of NationalJournal.com, Schneider also helped launch the political site PoliticsNow.com in the mid-1990s, and worked on the earliest online efforts of the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He began his career in print journalism, and has written for a wide range of publications, including The New York Times, WashingtonPost.com, Slate, Politico, National Journal, Governing, and many of the other titles listed above.

Schneider is a graduate of Indiana University, where his emphases were journalism, business and religious studies.

Click here for previous articles by Schneider, or connect with him on Twitter: @troyschneider.


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