Some interesting news out of Government Executive Magazine.  Yes, I know you read this religiously.  That is to say, you read it while praying the government doesn’t do yet more stupid things.  A recent survey among federal employees shows “More than half of federal workers value creativity and innovation in their jobs.”

The Partnership for Public Service and the Hay Group found 63.3 percent of employees gave the government a positive score on innovation. Or, about 36.7 percent think they’re stuck in a creativity black hole.  The percentage was based on questions posed in the Office of Personnel Management’s annual survey of federal employee attitudes; the 2010 survey included more than 263,000 employees from 32 large agencies, 34 small agencies and 224 agency subcomponents.

The questions posed were:

  1. I am constantly looking for ways to do my job better.
  2. I feel encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things.
  3. Creativity and innovation are rewarded.

What’s interesting is that when asked an “I” question, 91.4 percent said they personally were constantly looking for ways to do their jobs better.  What drags down the scores is that only 39% percent of employees felt their agency rewarded creativity and innovation, and 59.6 percent of respondents said they felt agencies and managers encouraged them to devise new and better ways of doing things.  How can all the employees be simultaneously acting to innovate while being put down by the man.  They are the man!

So, how did the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office fare? It ranked 215 out of 223 agencies surveyed.  OK, I get that NASA ranked number one with a 78.8% innovation score.  They are rocket scientists, right?  But the Patent Office is all about invention.  It came in with a score of 54.6, just slightly higher than the U.S. Mint.  What really pulled down the score?  Just 29.2% agreed that creativity and innovation are rewarded.

Employees need to feel invested in innovation, so reward them for suggesting great ideas that fly and for “failing fast” with ones that don’t quite get off the ground.  Employees who are empowered to express their creativity and think outside the box are more likely to feel compelled to help increase productivity.   If you reward innovation and creativity, you can create a workforce committed to improving the bottom line.

If it’s true that 80% of innovations occur by mistake, then we need to encourage trying new ideas.  Sure, most new ideas will fail, but trying is the only way to get to ideas that succeed.

I am encouraged by the report on “10 Apps Changing Government.  It would be great to have a PAIR system app on your iPhone for looking at records at the PTO.  But then, remember the EFS/PASAT software debacle that required applicants to assemble an application into an open-standard XML format?

What’s really scary is that you can purchase GovernmentExecutive.com swag, including the NextGov baby onesie.  Maybe I should give one away.  Hmmmm.

(via Hal Wegner)

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