finding_iconWhat is innovation?

Innovation is doing something different to add value for a customer. It means adding a customer capability to do something different, know something more, or perhaps connect with others. Innovation changes customers’ lives in ways they value.

To do something different means the organization changes, too. Innovation changes government’s business and technology models, and then changes performance and culture. Innovation might apply creativity but it works on planning and managing change.

Innovation is a business proposition. There’s no end to additional value government could add for customers. But there are limits to government resources. Organizations will make choices and trade-offs to balance value-add across customers, and to the organization. Innovation provides a framework for those investments and decisions.

Innovation connects people to the customer, to each other, and to the mission. That’s why people enter government service, right? To make something better for someone. Innovation refreshes that opportunity.

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Creating an innovation strategy

Innovation is a business proposition. The best innovation strategy supports a business strategy in three ways.

First, it envisions a future in which customers have more capability than they have today. Think in terms of customers being able to do more, know more, or connect more by the innovations you offer them.

Second, it harnesses resources to realize that future. It identifies people, processes, and tools for creating value, testing it, and delivering it. A good innovation strategy plans a portfolio of incremental, moderate, and game-changing innovations. It also anticipates the organizational change required to deliver and sustain the value you offer customers.

Third, it ensures a desirable ROI for the organization. There’s no end to innovations you can offer customers, so choices are required. Your ROI is in the trade-offs you invite and manage in your business model, technology model, and culture changes.

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building_icon_68Standing up an innovation center

Agencies are standing up innovation centers as hubs of innovation activity. Commercial lessons learned can ease the way and increase your odds of success.

Start by helping center staff and stakeholders think strategically. Innovation should support business objectives, so help your organization start smart by creating innovation goals or objectives aligned with business strategy.

Plan to manage innovation. Innovation imposes unique requirements for agencies to change what they offer customers while continuing to offer present value. A center should be the place where agencies hold conversations and make decisions about how to create and deliver value balanced against available resources. A center should be the place where the organization learns how to do this well.

Plan to manage organizational change. Innovation requires an organization to change. It changes its business model, technology model, and culture/behaviors in ways that last in order to sustain the innovation. A center should be the place where the organization learns how to do this well.

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Buying innovation

To innovate is to do something different to add value for a customer. To buy innovation is to obtain capability you need, but don’t have, to do that.

Buying innovation means deciding what changes you’ll make in your business model (e.g., customer value proposition, delivery channels, key resources, costs, etc.) and technology model (network, systems and apps, security, etc.) to add specific value for a specific customer.

Changes in those two model will cause customers to interact differently with your organization. This means roles, responsibilities, and activities within your organization will change. Innovation causes change in an organization which can’t be undone when priorities shift or a contract expires. A smart innovation buy anticipates organizational change.

There are many ways to “buy” innovation including contracts, grants, intergovernmental agreements, challenges, MOUs, and more. You might even combine methods to innovate effectively and efficiently.


Contact GovInnovators, if you have questions about any of the following:

  • Building innovation strategies or plans
  • Assessing your organization’s innovation capability
  • Technology innovation
  • Business model or business process innovation
  • Innovation training
  • Leadership, management, and innovation
  • Change management or transformation
  • Topical/subject matter area innovation such as in IT, data, HR, staffing, pricing, requirements, proposals and others