The National Academies

NCHRP 20-108 [Final]

Guide to Sustaining a Culture of Innovation within Departments of Transportation

  Project Data
Funds: $250,000
Research Agency: Burns & McDonnell Engineering Company Inc.
Principal Investigator: Julie Lorenz
Effective Date: 7/11/2016
Completion Date: 6/30/2018

Innovation in an organization occurs when people alter existing products, processes, and services or develop new ones that improve the operations of the organization or the services or other outcomes for customers and stakeholders. Some examples are improving quality of service; reducing costs; enhancing economic productivity; increasing safety and environmental quality; and enhancing the organization’s effectiveness. For state departments of transportation (DOTs) and other government transportation agencies, successful innovation can mean facilitating movement of people and goods, serving a diverse range of stakeholders, using public funds wisely, providing effective stewardship of the public’s investment in facilities and systems, supporting our economy, and protecting safety and environmental quality. Confronted by continuing technological change, increasing globalization of our lives, and changing workforce dynamics, the public as well as leaders of organizations in government and the private sector have come to understand that having an organizational culture that accepts and encourages innovation is an important contributor to an organization’s success, speeding the rate at which good new ideas become common practice.  A culture of innovation supports DOT managers and staff in their ongoing efforts to enhance the agency’s success. DOTs vary, however—in their legislative settings, organizational structures, operating policies, and staffing, for example, as well as the geography and customer bases of their states—and so too do the specific characteristics and management practices that will encourage and sustain a culture of innovation. DOT leaders might all characterize their agencies as innovative, but they and their staff would likely recognize that more can be done to encourage innovation within their organizations and that both leadership and staff must be engaged in the effort. Also important to such effort is effective communication with external stakeholders who support and rely on the agency’s services and programs.
The objective of this research was to produce a guide for encouraging and sustaining a culture of innovation within a DOT or other government transportation agency and their partners and a plan for disseminating and facilitating use of the guide. The guide is intended to provide (1) internal and external stakeholders with a practical understanding of what an culture of innovation is and why it is important in a DOT; (2) implementable strategies for staff at all levels for developing such a culture, channeling its efforts, and sustaining its vitality; and (3) specific examples for staff and leaders of measures and tools they can use to assess and report, within the organization and to others outside the organization, the outcomes desired and benefits realized through innovation. 
The guide has been published as NCHRP Research Report 885. An accompanying summary of the research to produce the guide has been published as Web-Only Document 248. The documents may be accessed by clicking here.  

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