Editorial: Youthful thinking

The next administration has a unique opportunity to change the way government does business and is managed.

The coming months will be exciting and filled with opportunities. We believe the 2008 class of Rising Stars, who are profiled in this issue, will be at the forefront of those changes. We look forward to what they can accomplish.

Over the years, we have heard that government is on the precipice of change. And during the past year, we have heard just about every presidential candidate talk about the need for change.

We believe that the next administration has a unique opportunity to change the way government does business and is managed. There is a generational change that is occurring within the government workforce. Many longtime government workers, unwilling to prove themselves once again to a new crop of political appointees, are retiring and moving on to the next stage of their careers. That is opening opportunities for the development of a new, younger federal workforce.

Many of those younger workers have grown up in an increasingly digital world. They already understand the Web tools and other devices that allow agencies to tap into collaboration.

We believe this combination provides a real opportunity to examine the way government operates and consider doing things differently.

There are certain tenets that the government needs to adopt if change is going to be possible. Among those:

  • Embrace change: We all say we want change, but when it comes down to it, we are comfortable doing things the way we have done them. Agencies need to constantly be looking at new ways of doing things.

  •  Relish failures: Trying new things necessitates making mistakes. It goes along with change. And not everything is going to work. Executives and managers need to do everything they can to mitigate the risks, but too often the government is reluctant to try anything new because it is afraid the innovations might not work. Agencies need to manage risk, but we often learn more from our mistakes then we do from our successes.

  • Banish preconceptions: One of the most destructive phrases is, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” Those seven words have quashed more ideas than any other obstacle. Even worse, they have destroyed the desire to change.

  • Celebrate youth: When it comes down to it, youth isn’t an age. It is a mind-set. Many of the young in age — the people new to government — are at impressionable points in their careers, and the entrepreneurial spirit can be decimated. That would be disappointing and a true loss. A little bit of encouragement will go a long way.