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Measuring Innovation In Government

Filed under: Erie County, Local Politics


The Partnership for Public Service a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving how the federal government works, does a survey every year regarding innovation.

The survey asks federal employees three interesting questions regarding creativity and innovation:

– Do you feel encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things?

– Are creativity and innovation rewarded?

– Are you constantly looking for ways to do your job better?

The answers to these three questions can tell you a lot about any work place. 90 percent of federal employees reported that they are always looking for better ways to do their jobs. However only 54.7 percent feel encouraged to do so and only 33.4 percent believe their agency rewards creativity and innovation.

Managers play a critical role in creating an environment that encourages and supports creativity in the workplace. The report recommends several steps that managers can take to foster innovation.

Share a vision
Tell a story about how a new idea or process improved the organization’s ability to accomplish its mission. Explain what you would like to see the team achieve and engage team members in dialogue to build on the idea and how it can be implemented.

Prioritize innovation
Make sure your calendar reflects your commitment to innovation. Schedule regular meetings or set aside time to pursue new ideas. It sends a signal to your team that innovation is important.

Provide a forum
Discussion forums can improve employee engagement and a sense of job satisfaction by giving employees a role in bringing about innovative solutions to workplace issues. Ask employees directly to share their views about improving work processes and service delivery. Try running a meeting devoted exclusively to the discussion of new ideas. Create six 10-minute slots and have employees sign up to present.

Build trust and serve as a mentor
If an idea isn’t ready for implementation, don’t shoot it down immediately. Provide constructive feedback and help employees improve the idea. Try asking different questions, such as, “What is missing?” or “What hasn’t been said yet?” Connect employees with others who may offer additional guidance.

Create a process for implementation
Decide which innovations to pursue based on your organization’s priorities and needs, and make sure the ideas can be supported with the necessary resources and technical help. The steps to achieve the desired goals should be laid out in advance, with timetables to meet specific targets and individual responsibilities clearly delineated. Everyone involved should have a clear understanding of the change, why it is important and how it will benefit the organization.

Assess outcomes and reflect
Consider using metrics or employee and client feedback to evaluate the innovation effort and determine if it is working. Use the assessments to make any adjustments and keep the process moving forward to reach the desired outcome. If the idea falls short, spend time examining what went wrong in order to improve the next project. Be honest about any difficulties or tough decisions.

Recognize employees
At team meetings or with more formal innovation awards, be sure to highlight the good work and creativity of employees and celebrate your successes. Recognition sends a positive message to team members that their ideas and effort matter.

It would be great to see local governments surveying their employees regarding innovation and ranking their departments based on innovation. My guess is that the numbers for most towns, cities and counties would be quite low.

What do you think?


  • rhmaccallum

    I think when you ask “Are creativity and innovation rewarded” most respondents would think of maybe a bonus or raise or something, not an “attaboy” at a meeting.
    In the private sector a manager has the ability to give a real, concrete reward. In the public sector that can’t happen. Because, you know, the taxpayer might find out.