Innovation—Not Just a Buzzword for Federal Agencies

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Innovate. What does that word really mean? The dictionary definition is "to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products." As a public manager, how do you define innovation among your team members, and is the creativity that innovation needs happening in your department? 

In the cover story October 2016 issue of The Public Manager, Stephanie Wade, former director of the Innovation Lab at OPM, lays out seven steps—from asking why, to starting small, to celebrating wins—that should be part of all innovation initiatives. Wade believes that agencies must find innovative ways to deliver services to the public. In this day and age when cost-cutting ideas are the norm in government, finding new ways to deliver programs and services to the public will make government more effective and efficient. 

Hackathons are an innovative way to get the public involved in government challenges, issues, and programs. Hackathons, which are becoming more common in government, are meant to "find groups of people, bring them together around an issue or problem that needs to be fixed, then step out of the way and let the collective energy of the people in the room come together … to solve things in creative and imaginative ways that we would never have done ourselves," Chris Vein, then-U.S. deputy chief technology officer for government innovation, said in 2012. 

In “Hacking for the Great Good,” ATD associate editor Jon Wolper delves into the ins and outs of hackathons and the important role they play in citizen and stakeholder engagement. 


The benefits of innovation are endless. As a manager, you should be encouraging your team to try new things, listen to the public, and always ask why—these actions may lead to greater productivity. 

To learn more about best practices occurring in the federal sphere, check out the October issue of The Public Manager. Here’s how you can access the issue:


Download the ATD Publications app to your mobile device or tablet. Find it in the Apple app store or Google Play by searching for “ATD Publications.” Open the app, login with your ATD account, and click The Public Manager cover to access the current issue of your subscription.

To access your subscription from your desktop, go to, where you can view the current issue in the e-reader.

About the Author

Paula Ketter is ATD's content strategist. Previously, she served as editor of ATD's periodicals.

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