Eight Common Challenges to Scaling Innovation

Jenn Gustetic: “Implementing an innovative approach within the federal government takes relentlessness, stamina, and strategy. It can be incredibly lonely. You are often your own best champion. It can feel impossible– like being the underdog trying to win a sporting match. But after all the frustrations and setbacks, when you win that first match it is also overwhelmingly satisfying.

But for the change agents in government, winning the first match is not enough. To make innovative approaches more routine, winning one match is just the beginning. The scaling challenge begins when you try to win over and over—and when you try to get more people to join your team….

There are eight common critical elements to scaling innovative approaches across the federal government that are not unique.

  1. Legal and policy frameworks: Even without an explicit legal authority, policy guidance on existing available authorities can have a great impact on initial scaling efforts.
  2. Shared infrastructure and common platforms: It is not cost-effective for each agency to have to recreate similar capabilities to support each innovative approach; shared services for some functions can reduce barriers to entry and increase efficiency.
  3. Emergence and sustainability of communities of practice: People are the most important part in developing and sharing the knowledge for innovative approaches—and their individual energy can be channeled for higher impact when intentionally connected with shared purpose.
  4. Knowledge capture and sharing: Toolkits increase the impact of interactions between experts and new learners by making basic knowledge more easily discoverable.
  5. Budget: Finding ways to build flexibility into program annual budget requests to allow for the funding of innovative approaches is critical to unlocking more resources to support these approaches that are owned by the programs themselves.
  6. Agency processes: Spending time modernizing the “un-sexy” protocols owned by procurement, human resources, and other Agency mission support functions might be the single most important door to unlock to scale new approaches.
  7. Reporting requirements: Creating centralized mechanisms (whether required or voluntary) for reporting and being disciplined in collecting quality reports that describe results on a project level builds the evidence base for scaling.
  8. External assessments and impact studies: Federal agencies should also support independent assessments of their use of innovative approaches in order to capture non-biased impact analysis and improve practice, based on evidence.

Here’s a little bit more context about why these are all important elements to scaling innovation…(More)”