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Three keys to government innovation

Learn how innovation can accelerate government efficiency and effectiveness.


Innovation isn’t always about invention—it’s also about improving effectiveness. Accelerating innovation and federal government efficiency will require leaders to work across their organizations in new ways. In this article, we highlight approaches to harness the power of individuals at all levels, establishing processes that make ideas a reality more quickly, and using enabling technologies to fuel government efficiency.

Encouraging innovation across the organization, creating processes that support idea development and enabling access to digital tools may not transform an agency. However, they will establish the building blocks federal employees require to better use innovation to address public sector challenges. With leadership commitment and openness to new ideas and approaches, agencies can make innovation part of their culture, explore new ways to operate more efficiently and effectively, and deliver public service for the future.



As federal agencies aim to meet expanding citizen demands, reduce costs and identify more efficient ways of operating, even incremental improvements can make an impact. Perhaps this is why federal employees and agencies look to innovation as a means to deliver public service for the future. Forty-four percent of federal managers say that they innovate to improve mission delivery.

A desire to be productive and contribute to innovative solutions motivates federal employees, according to a recent Accenture survey. Sixty percent say a commitment to public service drives them, and 40 percent say more efficient operations is a goal of innovation within their agency.

Agencies can unleash innovations that improve government efficiency by championing innovative ideas from across the organization, applying a structured approach to innovation and using digital tools to maximize the potential reach and impact of each innovation.

Is Government Making Inroads on Government Efficiency?


When asked to grade their agencies’ support for innovation, only 8 percent rate their agency as “excellent,” and just 22 percent say the level of support is “good.” More than half (56 percent) say a lack of institutional support hinders innovation within their organization.

Accenture’s survey also showed that only 21 percent of agencies have given employees opportunities to work on independent projects. Only 9 percent set aside time for brainstorming, which presents a major opportunity for improvement.

When it comes to tracking innovation, just 28 percent of federal managers say their agency tracks the performance of new initiatives after implementation and 66 percent say their department/agency does not set specific innovation targets or benchmarks.

Forty-six percent of federal employees say they draw inspiration from their coworkers, and 40 percent say they get it from other departments/agencies. However, only 6 percent of federal managers surveyed rate their agency’s digital collaboration tools (e.g. social media, mobile apps, cloud-based live sharing tools) as “excellent.”


Leadership can play a key role in fostering innovation by encouraging internal and external idea sharing. Federal leaders can help by supporting collaboration and encouraging employees to bring forward ideas on how to improve their agency’s performance.

Often times, innovation is the output of structured, yet flexible, processes. Federal agencies can bring new ideas to fruition faster by creating an innovation process that introduces and prioritizes ideas that will yield the best outcomes. Agencies might share or “crowdsource” an innovation idea so that the broader agency population can weigh in on which innovations to pursue. As the best ideas emerge, agencies can provide organizational support and resources to “operationalize” the idea. Throughout implementation, the agency can refine recommended ideas and measure progress through defined milestones and goals aligned to the intended benefits.

Lastly, there is no reason for innovation to be confined by walls or work schedules. Digital collaboration tools, such as social media, mobility or cloud-based sharing, can foster 24/7 innovation among federal employees and across agencies.

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Tom Griener
Managing Director, Technology

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Robert McNamara
Managing Director

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