Critical Update: Flying Cars, Valley of Death and Innovating with Intrapreneurs

Pavel Chagochkin/

In episode two, Nextgov talks with National Geospatial-Intelligence Chief Ventures Officer Christy Monaco about the business of innovation in government.

The government has big problems to solve and there are a lot of people out there with big ideas and fresh technologies to pitch. The problem for agencies: figuring out which ideas to spend time and treasure on.

At the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Chief Ventures Officer Christy Monaco is helping the agency sort this out. Monaco leads NGA’s Office of Ventures and Innovation, focused on helping agency employees develop and adopt new ideas and coordinating with the private sector on emerging tech.

“There’s a growing number of folks who have a similar role to me,” Monaco said, though they don’t all have the same title. But these feds have a similar goal: Make innovation in government a reality.

To accomplish this, “we have put together several activities that may exist in other organizations separately,” Monaco said. “For example, we took some enterprise innovation activities and put them together with our component acquisition executive activities.”

This structure acknowledges the relationship between integrating emerging technologies and the need to actually procure those technologies, she said. Putting these shops together helps NGA avoid the “valley of death,” or the murky period between innovation and adoption where so many great ideas meet their end.

That includes fostering new ideas within the agency and finding ways to partner with private industry.

“One of the things that we’re really focusing on is translating NGA’s what we call our ‘hard problems’ into language that resonates with industry,” Monaco said.

Between big technology ideas from industry and the innovations coming out of NGA’s “intrapreneur” program, the young office is already showing results.

Based on her experience, Monaco also offers government project managers some advice on how best to position their own programs, particularly when pitching groups like the Technology Modernization Fund Board for funding.

Listen to the podcast for more, including how close we are to having flying cars and why Monaco doesn’t plan on getting into one any time soon.

You can listen to the full episode below, or download to your device from the Apple store or Google Play.

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