Design Thinking, Lean Startup Methods Can Unleash Agency Innovation


Thought Leadership

March 12, 2018

Design Thinking, Lean Startup Methods Can Unleash Agency Innovation

Federal agencies seeking to modernize are often faced with two all-too-familiar dilemmas. Legacy procurement practices, designed specifically for the acquisition of tools, all too often work against their modernization efforts, and teams are often hampered by an aversion to risk. The former doesn’t fit with agencies’ desires for increased flexibility and agility, while the latter can impede innovation.


In a traditional procurement process, an agency issues a request for proposal with detailed specifications and requirements, contractors respond with quotes for delivery of goods, proposals are scored, and someone wins the bid. The contract binds the two parties into an agreement that requires contractors to deliver working goods according to the specifications in the RFP, on time and under budget. This works fine for tangible goods, but modern government is driven by intangible solutions — platforms, cloud and cybersecurity services, and so forth.


Further, traditional procurement cycles posit failure as something to be feared, causing teams to be afraid to take risks. But failing and taking risks help teams learn from their mistakes, which allows them to improve upon processes. Being afraid keeps teams from breaking out of the boxes and patterns that stifle opportunities for innovation.

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