NASA still tops in agency innovation rankings

The Partnership for Public Service's latest analysis finds that government innovation ratings have slipped for the fifth straight year. Several key agencies, however, both outperform their peers and are on the rise.

Overall, the Partnership’s analysis of its Best Places to Work survey data shows the government-wide innovation score dropping to 58.9 out of 100 -- a 4.4-point decline since innovation was first scored in 2010. And some individual agencies and subcomponents fared far worse: The Department of Homeland Security scored 49.4 (a 1.3-point drop from last year), while the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board dropped 6.8 points to 42.7.

Other agencies stood out as innovative workplaces. NASA, which has topped the large-agency list every year, saw its score climb slightly to 76.7. The departments of State, Commerce, Health and Human Services and the Air Force all improved over last year as well, and scored in the low-to-mid-sixties. 

Individual subcomponents scored even higher. The top five included four units of NASA that outscored their parent agency, and the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office was a DHS outlier with an innovation score of 80.2.

According to the Partnership's analysis, which was done in collaboration with Deloitte and Hay Group, there were six questions in the Best Places to Work survey that had a "disproportionately high impact" on the innovation scores. 

The question with the single biggest impact on the innovation score asked whether agency employees feel recognized for providing high quality products and services. "This was one of the lowest-scoring questions," the report states, "with a rating of 42.5 percent out of 100."

The other high-impact questions dealt with leadership issues, employees' feelings of empowerment and whether employees were given opportunities to improve their skills. "If leaders want to make changes to their culture," the report concludes, "there are several lessons they can learn from agencies with successful innovation programs."

The full report is available here

About the Author

Troy K. Schneider is editor-in-chief of FCW and GCN, as well as General Manager of Public Sector 360.

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, Schneider also helped launch the political site 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,, 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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