Is it possible for government agencies to innovate? Yes, if they use the right people. And in the case of the US Government: a startup mentality.

In the video above, Haley Van Dyck outlines how her teams at the United States Digital Service used the skills and techniques of Silicon Valley to effect real change in departments which were in dire need of innovation.

The federal government is the largest institution in the world, and spends $86 billion annually just on IT projects. And 94% of those projects end up over budget or behind schedule, and 40% never even finish.

[Editor’s note: I did the math, and $86bn is more than the 2015 GDP of 125 countries!]

As Van Dyck put it:

When the status quo is failure, there is simply no other choice apart from radical disruption

So what did the USDS do in order to actually execute its new ideas:

  1. Recruit the very best talent from across the country’s most successful companies for short tours of duty
  2. Pair these people with dedicated civil servants already working in government
  3. Target their effort to the most mission critical, life-changing services that government offers
  4. Give them “air cover” from leadership all the way to the top
  5. Have these teams take something that is routine and standard in one industry (in this case, Silicon Valley) and transfer that way of thinking and working into somewhere where it is a radical departure to disrupt it
  6. Split what were previously large, multi-year projects into smaller, bite-sized projects where progress could be seen and monitored more rapidly, and be executed by much smaller, focused teams

Have a look at the video, and see whether that thinking could apply to your organisation. It might be just as applicable in any large organisation as it is in government.

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Chief Editor of and Founder / CEO of Improvides Innovation Consulting. Coach / Speaker / Author / TEDx Speaker / Voted as the world's #7 Innovation blogger in 2014, I help individuals and companies build their creativity and innovation capabilities, so you can develop the next breakthrough idea which customers love.