Transportation also showed the most improvement among large agencies on the Partnership ranking, rising by 1.7 percentage points from 2011 to 2012.
Department spokesman Justin Nisly said the agency had implemented more than 100 employee-generated ideas since launching IdeaHub three years ago.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development, which ranked 16 of 20 midsize agencies in the Partnership report, made it onto the Ash list twice — once for its neighborhood revitalization program and again for its program focused on sustainable communities, which it conducts in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency and Transportation.
For Stephen Goldsmith, Ash’s director of the Innovations in Government Program, that federal employees are frustrated doesn’t mean that pockets of creativity can’t emerge.
Like NASA’s Buchholz, he said it means giving employees permission to experiment.
“In a risk-averse context, the courage and ability to think across those boundaries is restricted. And I’m afraid that’s what’s occurring today in the federal workforce,” he said.
“It’s not even just the political environment in Washington, it’s the structures of government themselves that are quite inconsistent with the bold innovative thinking that is necessary to move us to a better place.”
The Partnership’s Stier echoes Goldsmith’s assessment.
“We have a government that is way too risk-averse,” he said. “By attempting to avoid mistakes, we fail to take advantage of positive opportunities.”
Government must offer more formal awards and incentives to employees for their creativity, the Partnership report recommends, as well as create a collaborative culture.
It comes down to a relatively basic principle, as Goldsmtih sees it: “My assumption . . . is places where employees enjoy working are more conducive to innovation.”
The Partnership for Public Service and The Washington Post have a content-sharing relationship.