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Uncle Sam Might Be Even Less Innovative Than You Thought

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The federal government might be less dedicated to innovation than it was in 2010.

In a new survey, federal employees across departments scored their organizations’ culture of creativity and innovation. Their combined score, 58.9 out of 100, was a 0.5 point drop from 2013, and a 4.4 point drop since 2010.

Only 32.7 percent of employees said they felt creativity and innovation were rewarded in their organization, according to the survey, conducted by Deloitte, the Hay Group and the Partnership for Public Service.

Employees ranked the Department of Health and Human Services, NASA and the Surface Transportation Board, an agency within the Transportation Department, among the most innovative organizations.

Highly ranked organizations dedicated special programs and awards to creative thinking and entrepreneurship, the report showed.

For instance, HHS’ IDEA Lab is an internal entrepreneurship hub designed to help employees test out new ideas. It includes an award program, HHS Innovates, that recognizes employees for creative ideas. Another initiative, called HHS Ignites, gives teams $5,000 and three months to work on specific entrepreneurial plans.

One team, from HHS’ Indian Health Service, developed software for hospital check-in to fast-track patients through emergency rooms. JumpStart, another project, aims to allow medical reviewers from the Food and Drug Administration more quickly access data from clinical drug trials. A third, called FreeStuff, is an online system for sharing equipment across offices, which saved the department almost $60,000 in three months, the report said.

In addition to various awards it gives for employee entrepreneurship, NASA staff use an internal virtual platform called NASA@Work, which allows employees to collaborate in online discussions to solve challenges posted by colleagues.

The Surface Transportation Board encouraged innovation by hosting monthly sessions to brief employees on all projects, and how their collaborations can be improved, the report said. 

During the survey, researchers found that other factors with a high impact on the innovation score include whether employees feel rewarded for performing high-quality work, feel they have the freedom to expand their skills, have leadership opportunities, respect senior leaders, are satisfied with their involvement in decisions affecting their work, and also feel personally empowered. 

(Image via Peshkova/ Shutterstock.com)

By Mohana Ravindranath April 1, 2015

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