Federal CTO plans new networking tool to spur innovation

Friday - 7/27/2012, 7:57pm EDT

Ruben Gomez, reporter, Federal News Radio

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The federal chief technology officer Thursday asked leaders throughout government for help in developing a new project to connect agency visionaries with one another.

Todd Park said the Innovation Networking Project is in its infancy, but the end goal is to supplement traditional, face-to-face networking with a new method of helping federal employees of like minds and ideas brainstorm.

"We've seen lots of examples of cases where innovators in one agency have one idea; innovators in other agencies actually have the same idea," he said in an interview with Federal News Radio. "And while they couldn't make the idea happen by themselves, if they team up and pool their time, and pool their energy and pool their resources, they can actually make that idea happen."

Park, who has made government innovation one of his key priorities, said he and his team will use the "lean startup" concept to develop the networking platform. That means the project will rely on iterative releases and start small at first. But he doesn't know exactly how the end result will look.

"It may actually have a variety of different components drawn from technology, drawn from process, drawn from business practice buckets," he said. "But I think it's really important to keep an open mind about it and to partner with the innovators and try to figure out, 'Well, what is it that would really unlock the ability to get together?'"

One option is for the project to utilize existing social-networking platforms, Park said. But, in a speech Thursday at the 2012 Next Generation of Government Summit, sponsored by GovLoop, he also asked federal employees to send him ideas for the final product.

Park said his team will begin working on the project soon, but he did not provide a specific time frame.

Networking project could help with recruiting

While Park hopes the Innovation Networking Project will connect visionaries, it might also help bring in new talent, a former CIA intelligence executive told Federal News Radio.

"I think more people will be attracted to government service if they identify government as an innovation platform," said Carmen Medina, a former CIA deputy director for intelligence.

Medina, who now works as the specialist leader at Deloitte Consulting, said she hopes the networking project will spur a new way of thinking among federal employees.

"Government attracts really smart people," she said, "and so they tend to think they're the smart person in the room. … The smartest people on your issue are outside your organization. So you have to really view networking as an opportunity to become more effective, more productive."

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