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FCW : January 2016
While innovation in government is by no means limited to IT shops, CIOs are uniquely positioned to help drive it. And now, with the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, there is a statutory obli- gation for CIOs to help lead agency innovation efforts. The obstacles to innovation, how- ever — both structural and cultural — are remarkably consistent across government. The five challenges below are drawn from the IBM Center for the Business of Government’s recent “A Playbook for CIO-Enabled Inno- vation in the Federal Government.” The full report, which includes recommendations for overcom- ing these challenges and key find- ings from the field, is available at www.businessofgovernment.org. 1. Lack of buy-in from key players One of the biggest challenges in enact- ing innovation is overcoming the heroic myth of a single person slaving away in isolation to create innovation. Fueled by stories of companies started by founders in garages or dorm rooms, government and industry often suc- cumb to the romantic myth that true innovation is a solitary endeavor. Perhaps as a result of the “hero” myth, some agencies have adopted a skunkworks approach to innovation by establishing an innovation office. Such an approach — modeled after Lock- heed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs — identifies and isolates talented people, with the expectation that once the shackles of oversight and administration are removed, innovation will naturally occur. What is sometimes missed in this model is that to meet its goals, an organization still requires active man- agement by agency leadership, includ- ing provision of a mission, objectives, resources and top-cover. Because this approach has had some success in industry, some agencies are adopting it without fully implement- ing its necessary oversight and support structures. In these agencies, a few undeniably talented people are isolated and directed to be innovative. While some good ideas have emerged, these ideas have generally wilted in isolation without proper support and wisdom of other key players in the agency. Fur- ther, these ideas were often out of sync with the realities of current operations, technology or the budget. As such, we caution that while inno- vation offices may be successful, they need to be thoughtfully addressed and not exclude innovation by others with- in the organization. As Renee Wynn, CIO at two federal agencies, says, “If you make innovation someone else’s job, no one else wor- ries about it.” BY GREGORY S. DAWSON AND JAMES S. DENFORD To successfully drive innovation in the federal government, it helps to first understand the obstacles 5 challenges to CIO-led innovation DrillDown One of the biggest challenges in enacting innovation is overcoming the heroic myth of a single person slaving away in isolation to create innovation. 30 January 2016 FCW.COM Gregory S. Dawson Arizona State University James S. Denford Royal Military College of Canada Innovation Series A Playbook for CIO-Enabled Innovation in the Federal Government 0116fcw_030-032.indd 30 1/4/16 3:51 PM
November and December 2015