innovation lab

NEW: USDOT IdeaHub

More than 9,000 ideas have been submitted by USDOT employees through its IdeaHub.  Employees create, rate, discuss and improve upon innovative ideas to help make the Department a top flight 21st-century agency.  IdeaHub is credited for making the Department one of the best places to work in the Federal Government.

Introduction

Employee empowerment is the beating heart of a fruitful innovation initiative. In the most innovative organizations – at places like Google and Amazon - new ideas are not the domain of the C-suite, but rather they steadily emerge from deep in the organization, where all employees are invested and authorized to act on ideas for getting their jobs done better, rather than passively following rules set from above. 

Innovation Training

In a workforce used to following orders, innovation doesn’t magically happen; it requires formal training. Often training is built around ‘Lean’ type initiatives; at the core of Lean training is coaching workers to go out on a limb, rather than stay passive, but it also involves learning how to present ideas and evaluate them in terms of key metrics like cost or time savings. 

Foster an ‘its your baby’ attitude

Without ownership, good ideas can easily die on the vine. DOTs must work to give ownership to idea generators by letting them prove the business case and then committing to implement where the case is proven. To avoid an ‘its not my baby’ attitude among employees, avoid a strict ‘gate-keeper’ culture around innovation, in which a small group anoints ideas; there is no way that will kill an innovation program more quickly.

Always say 'yes and...'

Experienced leaders in innovation find that it is literally an impossible task to police innovation. A much more practical strategy is to let ideas stand or fall on their relative merits (in terms of cost and time savings or customer satisfaction improvements and alignment with mission critical goals like mobility, safety or preservation) rather than try to judge every idea and say no to some, which shuts down innovation.