Guide to Sustaining a Culture of Innovation within Departments of Transportation

Innovation in an organization occurs when people alter existing products, processes, and services or develop new ones to improve customer outcomes. Some examples are improving service; reducing costs; enhancing economic productivity; increasing safety and environmental quality; and enhancing their organization’s effectiveness. 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 a culture of innovation is an important contributor to an organization’s success, speeding the rate at which good new ideas become common practice. For state departments of transportation (DOTs) and other government transportation agencies, success means enabling 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. A culture of innovation can support 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 an 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 is 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 project entails a review of literature and other published sources to describe current practices in transportation agencies and other organizations regarding defining, developing, and sustaining a culture of innovation; a web-based survey of transportation agencies to identify case-study candidates; development of succinct explanations of the meaning of “culture of innovation” as it may be experienced within a DOT and case studies illustrating the concept; development of guidance materials and field testing of these materials.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 20-108

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials

    444 North Capitol Street, NW, Suite 225
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001
  • Project Managers:

    Lemer, Andrew

  • Performing Organizations:

    Burns & McDonnell Engineering Company Incorporated

    5511 Capital Center Drive
    Raleigh, NC  United States 
  • Principal Investigators:

    Lorenz, Julie

  • Start Date: 20160711
  • Expected Completion Date: 20180630
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • Source Data: RiP Project 40224

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01572376
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 20-108
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: Aug 7 2015 1:01AM