Innovation is one of TSA’s three core values. Historically, most TSA employees didn’t have a clear way for their ideas to be voiced, heard and developed into real initiatives, programs or changes to existing policies or procedures. TSA understood that finding a proactive way to engage employees at all levels, solicit recommendations for improvement, and strategically evaluate and implement ideas would be critical to fostering continued innovation across the Agency.
TSA’s challenge was to determine how to engage and ensure that every member of its large and disbursed workforce (50,000+ employees at 450 airports and other locations) has a voice in the way TSA and its operations evolve. TSA wanted the ability to collect constant, fresh input and perspectives on improvements as strategic tools in achieving its security-focused mission. Thus IdeaFactory was introduced in April 2007 as one of the key drivers of innovation at TSA.
IdeaFactory leverages Web 2.0 communications strategies to engage TSA stakeholders. The web site allows social networking/multi-way communications between different members of the field who have few opportunities to reach each other. IdeaFactory is both a blog that collects and builds ideas from employees and an enabling process that provides TSA with effective and efficient innovation through idea evaluation, selection and implementation.
Over the past two years, IdeaFactory has grown from concept to a successful, widely-recognized innovation and collaboration program with approximately 40% participation across TSA. IdeaFactory has generated over 9,000 ideas, and resulted in the implementation of over 40 national programs and initiatives; ideas that have improved TSA operations and culture—including changes to Standard Operating Procedures – and new initiatives that have improved job satisfaction, increased retention and improved the quality of work life.
IdeaFactory has won awards, including both the 2007 TSA Award for Innovation, and the 2007 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary’s Award, and was recently showcased in the Innovation Gallery on whitehouse.gov. In addition, DHS Secretary Napolitano’s objective, to increase efficiency, is reflected in the principles behind IdeaFactory and reiterates the increasing importance of this type of program in the new administration. As IdeaFactory has completed two successful years, other DHS components and government agencies are expressing interest in deploying similar programs, and it is clear that this is a program that is ahead of its time.
Tina Cariola is the current Program Manager for the IdeaFactory within the Office of the Deputy Administrator. Ms. Cariola has been with TSA for 6 years, and has focused on internal stakeholder relations for the majority of her career. Before the IdeaFactory, Ms. Cariola was involved with TSA’s eGov office, where she helped with TSA’s effort to streamline IT platforms for multiple uses, focusing on application for end-users to make sure they had appropriate tools to meet their needs. Prior to TSA, Ms. Cariola was a consultant specializing in customer relationship management. Ms. Cariola holds a B.S. from the University of Notre Dame, and an M.B.A from the University of Maryland.
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