We see innovation in action every day in our lives. When we think of innovation, most of us think of the private sector. And that’s hardly surprising since private-sector innovation accounts for more than 85 percent of economic growth in the United States.
But innovation is needed just as much in the public sector. Some of the impetus for innovation comes from new challenges such as childhood obesity, or climate change. Others come from public demands-public services can easily become stuck with outdated and ineffective approaches. And still more urgency emerges from fiscal pressures: as money gets tighter, public agencies will have to find more efficient ways to conduct the census or administer social security, improve workplace safety, or tackle crime. Public-sector productivity matters just as much for future prosperity in these days of fiscal tightness as private-sector productivity.
Finding the right way to tackle these issues is rarely straightforward. But it nearly always requires a cycle of coming up with new ideas, testing whether they actually work, and scaling up those ideas that are most effective. We know from other fields – such as science and medicine – that innovation doesn’t just happen by accident. There are well developed systems to foster innovation in the commercial sector. Yet too often in the public sector, even though there is a great deal of talk of the need to be innovative, there is little specific action. It’s still rare for innovation to be at all institutionalized in government budgets, roles, and processes. And it’s even rarer to find officials and politicians who are aware of the full range of tools that they could be using to accelerate the development and spread of better ideas.
This report looks at the actions that leaders in the public sector can take to ensure that there is a constant flow of promising ideas into the federal government.
It includes more than 20 different ways that public agencies are promoting the generation of great ideas. It is, in effect, a menu of practical ways in which organisations can help to generate a flow of great ideas. By choosing elements from each of these five themes, public-sector organizations will be able to ensure that there is a strong flow of great ideas on how to improve the way they go about their business.