New Report: Federal Ideation Program: Challenges and Best Practices

New Report by Professor Gwanhoo Lee for the IBM Center for The Business of Government: “Ideation is the process of generating new ideas or solutions using crowdsourcing technologies, and it is changing the way federal government agencies innovate and solve problems. Ideation tools use online brainstorming or social voting platforms to submit new ideas, search previously submitted ideas, post questions and challenges, discuss and expand on ideas, vote them up or down and flag them.
This report examines the current status, challenges, and best practices of federal internal ide­ation programs made available exclusively to employees. Initial experiences from a variety of agencies show that these ideation tools hold great promise in engaging employees and stake­holders in problem-solving.
While ideation programs offer promising benefits, making innovation an aspect of everyone’s job is very hard to achieve. Given that these ideation tools and programs are still relatively new, agencies have not yet figured out the best practices and often do not know what to expect during the implementation process. This report seeks to fill this gap.
Based on field research and a literature review, the report describes four federal internal ideation programs, including IdeaHub (Department of Transportation), the Sounding Board (the Department of State), IdeaFactory (Department of Homeland Security), and CDC IdeaLab (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services).
Four important challenges are associated with the adoption and implementation of federal internal ideation programs. These are: managing the ideation process and technology; managing cultural change; managing privacy, security and transparency; and managing use of the ideation tool.
Federal government agencies have been moving in the right direction by embracing these tools and launching ideation programs in boosting employee-driven innovation. However, many daunting challenges and issues remain to be addressed. For a federal agency to sustain its internal ideation program, it should note the following:
Recommendation One: Treat the ideation program not as a management fad but as a vehicle to reinvent the agency.
Recommendation Two: Institutionalize the ideation program.
Recommendation Three: Make the ideation team a permanent organizational unit.
Recommendation Four: Document ideas that are implemented.Quantify their impact and demonstrate the return on investment.Share the return with the employees through meaningful rewards.
Recommendation Five: Assimilate and integrate the ideation program into the mission-critical administrative processes.
Recommendation Six: Develop an easy-to-use mobile app for the ideation system.
Recommendation Seven: Keep learning from other agencies and even from commercial organizations.”