Innovation Starts With Accepting Failure, Fed Leaders Say

For Federal agencies, fostering innovation involves understanding when to be bold and where to put forth resources by communicating with other agencies as to what their needs are, while allowing for open communication channels within one’s own agency, said agency leaders today.

At the Government Executive Bold Gov event, leaders from the National Institute of Health (NIH), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Small Business Administration (SBA), and General Services Administration (GSA) spoke candidly about what helps their respective agencies innovate.

Daniel Fogarty, Chief Administrative Officer of Intramural Research from NIH offered that agencies must accept failure and establish a safe environment where ideas can be shared. Adding to that, Principal Deputy Associate Director at OPM Veronica Villalobos said that sharing ownership of failures is important to avoid finger pointing when ideas don’t pan out.

Speaking on challenges that agencies face with innovation, Director of Business Technology Solutions in the OCIO at SBA G. Negesh Rao said that he thinks that a big issue is office politics.

“It’s the fiefdoms that happen—it’s the office politics, the fiefdoms, and the unwillingness to experiment and learn,” Rao said, adding that micromanaging can impede progress and be a time-waster.

In a similar vein, Deputy Director for the IT Modernization Centers of Excellence at GSA Brian Whittaker offered that Federal employees too often chase individual success rather than building coalitions and working together through collaboration. Empowering teamwork efforts is a must for fostering innovation, the panel agreed.

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