How to become a serial innovator

By Dorothy Ramienski
Internet Editor

It isn’t always easy to innovate.

So you should probably try and fail.

“You need failure to have innovation because innovation requires experimentation, but how can you fail and fail fast? For successful companies, it’s all about small failures and protyping and doing scenario planning.”


William Eggers is Global Director in the Public Sector Industry at Deloitte Research and has written a book about innovation, The Public Innovator’s Playbook: Nurturing Bold Ideas in Government.

He says that innovation has evolved and just isn’t what it used to be.

Ten years ago, agencies were worried more about creating the right incentives for employees and implementing programs, such as Pay for Performance.

“That’s still an important component of innovation, but, right now, that’s only one strategy — and not even the main strategy — that a lot of governments will use because now we have the Internet and communities of practice and we have open source.”

Eggers’ book talks about insourcing great ideas from elsewhere in the 21st century.

He says he believes the “wisdom of the crowd” can help push innovation in any agency.

In order to be successful at this, though, Eggers says there is risk involve — and managers do have to be willing to fail. In his opinion, education is key.

“Web 2.0 is a great example of that. Rather than trying to have the most perfect architecture for it, you try a lot of different things and you see what works. The risks are not that high with most of the Web 2.0 applications.”

It’s what he calls, “fail fast, fail small”.

His book highlights many examples, some from federal CIO Vivek Kundra, of how minor failures can ultimately lead to big successes.

Overall, Eggers says managers and employees need to be willing to take risks and try new applications in order to create an environment that fosters creativity and innovation.

Look for the third book by Eggers, If We Can Put a Man on the Moon, coming this fall.

On the Web:

Government 2.0: Using Technology to Improve Education, Cut Red Tape, Reduce Gridlock, and Enhance Democracy

The Public Innovator’s Playbook: Nurturing Bold Ideas in Government

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