Innovation in the government sector is something managers often underestimate or struggle to emphasize the importance of. Some barriers preventing innovation from being a valued part of local and federal government agencies are the polarized political climate, the lack of financial reward, the absence of competitive forces and agency regulations.
However, these barriers can and should be broken to stress the importance of innovation and non-traditional thinking in the public sector. Considering the social and economic issues plaguing society today, it’s necessary for government agencies to embrace innovative thinking and employ these groundbreaking ideas as solutions to everyday adversities.
In This Article
- How to Enable Innovation in Your Government Agency
- Connect, Manage and Execute Key Plans and Initiatives With AchieveIt
How to Enable Innovation in Your Government Agency
Your government agency can be a transformative entity that aids society in various ways through embracing innovative thinking. When you have a greater breadth of ideas to pull from, you can develop more effective concepts that actually apply to citizens’ wants and needs and improve their lives. Here are a few tips on how your government agency can enable innovation:
1. Know What Holds Back Innovation
Identify what specific factors about your organization prevent it from being an environment that fosters and embraces innovation. Some examples may be a lack of connection within the organization, an absence of competition between agencies and no motivation from profit increases. Once you pinpoint the things holding back innovation, you can create a plan for how to change them and turn them into things that instead inspire employees.
For example, because organizations within the public sector do not have the motivation of competition with opposing entities or increased profit income, workers may feel like there’s less incentive to express new or significantly improved ideas, processes, practices and methods.
However, some aspects you should emphasize to increase the drive for innovative thinking in the public sector include personal career considerations, professional recognition, self-fulfillment and idealist goals for the greater good. Employees will want to strive for more at their jobs when they consider their work in terms of their own personal development. Thinking in these terms, you can mimic aspects of the private sector that may be more of a motivation for increased innovation.
2. Empower Citizens to Share Ideas
The government affects virtually everyone underneath it regardless of their social status or participation in a specific government organization. That is why it’s important to give each citizen the opportunity to share their ideas. In addition to giving them a platform for sharing ideas, you should also encourage citizens to give critical and constructive feedback on different policies, processes or services. Each person affected by your agency should have an active role in communicating their thoughts, thus encouraging innovation.
The public’s thoughts and ideas are important for innovation for several reasons. Opening up the conversation to the public and allowing people of different demographics, cultures, education levels and other various backgrounds to share their thoughts can create common goals everyone can agree on. One recent study showed that creating “journey maps” that capture a community’s experience and convey this information to government officials was helpful in facilitating positive change and spurring research on urban health.
Concepts like journey maps can be helpful for cases where soliciting and implementing citizen feedback would otherwise prove particularly difficult. Therefore, government agencies can ensure they prioritize citizen opinions and get information from the people their policies affect.
Instead of focusing on the ideas of those working within a government sector who may all have similar life experiences, it is important to open the forum up to individuals who have had different opportunities and experiences in life. These individuals’ personal histories give them unique perspectives that can inspire local government innovation.
3. Allow Employees to Experiment
Although government agencies have historically set rules and guidelines to follow in certain circumstances, it’s important to ensure these rules evolve as society changes. Instead of relying on traditional ideas and values for every case, governments should learn to adapt to current situations that may not have been a previous concern. Making these changes requires employees to have opportunities to experiment with new solutions and build their confidence in their decision-making skills.
You allow employees to exercise their problem-solving abilities and encourage them to practice abstract thinking by imagining themselves in different situations that various policies and services may affect.
Create a safe space for employees where they can feel comfortable expressing viewpoints that may differ from the majority. Doing so can empower them to test solutions and experiment with different ideas and situations without fear of judgment.
Because innovation stems from expressing unique thoughts in a collaborative space, it is key for your agency to allow collaboration between lower- and higher-level employees, which can spark productive conversations and give them the scope to try new ideas. Groups of people who don’t normally associate with one another can team up and share ideas that can lead them to breakthroughs regarding innovative solutions for the organization’s needs and goals.
4. Create Incentives for Improvement
Another way to spark innovation in your government agency is through offering individuals incentives. Because the public sector does not have natural incentives through competition and monetary gain in the same way the private sector does, you may spark more innovation among employees by creating incentives for them.
One way to incentivize different departments within the agency is to create financial motivators for them. If the funding is available, you can decrease budget troubles by allowing innovative departments access to increased revenue and reduced costs. Offering this incentive will kick-start other departments into prioritizing innovation that aligns with the company’s goals.
Another method to create incentives for individuals is for senior managers to recognize those who show innovative work. You can do this by evoking friendly competition with rewards, special assignments or acknowledgment of innovative ideas suggested by employees. Emphasize the importance of the work your agency does and if and how it positively affects the public. Simply knowing the difference your company makes in the lives of individuals can be enough incentive for some people.
When implementing incentives, you might consider using digital systems to monitor employee performance and accurately allocate the appropriate rewards. Adopting enhanced digitization tools can be especially helpful when giving out monetary rewards, as these solutions give employees more options for easily receiving money.
5. Create Feedback Loops
Feedback loops are an important part of the current business model, and governing agencies should incorporate them in their operations. A feedback loop is a cause-and-effect system where output data produced by the system circles back into the cycle as input data.
A feedback loop works effectively when companies and agencies use the feedback of people who use the company’s services or follow the agency’s procedures and laws. The organization then reviews the feedback and uses it to improve the product or service based on the public’s reactions and reviews.
While feedback loops for government organizations are not as straightforward as they are in the private sector, they should still be implemented in the public sector. Most of the feedback the government receives is through elections that show which opinion acts as the majority, but this is not effective in getting feedback for specific programs or services. Instead, your government agency must find a way to incorporate direct feedback regarding the functionality and performance of specific programs.
You can achieve this in various ways, including distributing polls and surveys to service participants, analyzing system usage of online programs and organizing a specific department to research public support versus retaliation. By analyzing and understanding the feedback you receive, you can alter a certain program or service to better fit the public’s needs, building up your organization’s credibility and reliance.
6. Create a Structured Strategy Plan With Buy-In
If you want to have a cohesive team with similar values and goals, you need to create a structured strategic plan. An effective strategic plan has a high buy-in rate, meaning there is a high acceptance and willingness to participate in and support the plan. This acceptance is important both regarding workers within the agency and the public.
Forming a plan that supports the opinions and values of each employee requires you to include them in the decision-making process. You can do this through things like surveys, discussions, board meetings and interviews. When an employee sees their inputs and perspectives reflected in various parts of the strategic plan, they may feel more respected and valued, which encourages them to do their part in following and achieving the goals of the planned strategy.
Receiving buy-ins for your strategy plan from the public is also important. Examining how your agency affects others and adopting multiple perspectives is key to creating a successful and accepted plan. Think about how your services and programs impact people of different demographics and decide what is best for the greater good. It’s crucial for you to be able to express why your organization made the decisions it did and ensure the public sees why these options are best.
To begin constructing your strategic plan, get your employees together as a group and decide how developed your proposal must be to successfully achieve the process of integrating innovation into your everyday work. The basic structure for a strategic plan should include objectives, strategies and tactics. Objectives are quantifiable goals you can measure. Set goals with measurable information you can track, such as time-based objectives, to see if you achieve your goals in the allotted time, and decide what you need to improve on.
Strategies give definitions for how to achieve the objectives you set. A subset of strategy, tactics are the individual assignments each individual needs to carry out to meet the objectives. If these three levels do not delve deep enough into your goals and how to achieve them, you can also explore strategic themes and goals.
Once you have a defined vision for your agency, you can ensure everyone has a set goal to aim toward. You must consistently reinforce this vision to inspire employees to continue following the structured plan. Alter the plan as necessary when events or developments in society create the public demand for change within your agency.
Regroup and adjust plans when necessary by discussing changes with the team and clearly communicating these alterations to all the relevant parties involved. Make sure everyone within the agency remains on the same page. That way, all individuals will have the same overall goals in mind and follow the proper actions to achieve these aims while also considering the effects of these changes on the public.
7. Use Planning Tools and Processes to Successfully Execute Innovation
Incorporating all the above tips into your government agency may seem like a difficult feat to accomplish with the amount of time and resources you have at your disposal. However, with the right planning tools and processes, you can successfully execute innovation within the public sector. Choosing effective software to help track goals and innovation progress specific to your company can make implementing changes and analyzing what alterations work for your agency become more achievable and effective.
When you use tools designed to make the process easier, your agency is more likely to be successful in increasing innovation. Instead of you working with disconnected information, poor performance and execution, manually collected updates and issues with visibility, strategic planning management software can help you release your agency’s potential. Some features of AchieveIt’s solution include shared information across the platform for all users, program tracking, real-time updates and plan organization.
You can enhance accountability for everyone on your team and know exactly who is responsible for what tasks, which helps keep things moving according to schedule. Collecting all your plan updates in one platform also lets you review your strategy at a glance and make any necessary adjustments to increase efficiency.
Connect, Manage and Execute Key Plans and Initiatives With AchieveIt
If you want to make integrating technological innovation into your company easier and more organized, AchieveIt may be the strategic planning and business software for you. With our software, you can track and analyze both qualitative and quantitative data through reports and dashboard functions, which are customizable to support your needs.
Unleash the potential of your strategic planning and execution process by utilizing our easy-to-use software. Our platform offers various features that allow you to see the bigger picture and achieve your goals. Specifically for governmental work, AchieveIt can help your government agency establish uniformity in data collection and reporting, create insight into what agency features need your attention, promote accountability, gain initiative visibility and make informed decisions with real-time data and context.
When you decide you are ready to turn the desire for open government innovation into a reality, check out AchieveIt. Request a free demo or contact us with any questions or concerns so we can get you one step closer to a more innovative and effective environment today!