Week 1— Drinking from a Fire Hose

Scott McNaughton
4 min readMar 15, 2019


Who am I?

Before I start a mental dump of the week, a quick introduction. Hi, I’m Scott McNaughton and I work in the Canadian Federal Public Service. I’ve been a public servant for 11 years. I’ve worked for 5 different Departments working on a hodgepodge of stuff in strategic policy, program development, Treasury Board submissions, design thinking, innovation, program evaluation, regulations, project management, finance, procurement, human resources, grants, and contributions and I’m sure a few other things I’m forgetting.

I‘ve been off on parental leave for the last 6 months, proud father of a beautiful baby daughter who is happy and healthy. For future fathers, take as much parental leave as you can. You won’t regret it for a second.

When I started my parental leave I worked at Transport Canada on the Service Innovation Team and when I got back from parental leave, I accepted a new position at the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS) as part of the Public Sector Innovation Team.

With an introduction out of the way, can I say I’m appreciating the things my parents warned me about?

Remember when your parents told you time goes by so fast? They weren’t lying.

Turns out they were right

Week 1 Recap — Drinking from a Fire Hose

One week with CSPS is in the books. Coming off a 6-month parental leave is difficult. Fears of accidentally talking baby during a meeting is a real fear. It turns out that 6 months of nothing but baby talk, spit-up, and dirty diapers turns your brain into mush. I am proud to say the baby didn’t shit on me (yet) but you learn that spit up becomes part of your outfit.

So the week has been great. I’m understanding the projects the team is working on and where I can contribute. The team has been nothing short of amazing, welcoming and helpful. I’m sensing that the team works in a flat hierarchy where people take on the work that excites them and with a supportive DG who encourages us to work in this way.

When I hired people at Transport Canada, they always told me the first few weeks was like drinking from a fire hose. On some level, I knew the words and what they meant but didn‘t appreciate the feeling until this first week at CSPS. It is information overload. We are looking at how to measure the impact of public sector innovation, building an engagement strategy to collaborate with academics, working on what a public sector innovation incubator or accelerator might look like, blockchain for transferable employee data, historical analysis of the classification system, Hubs and Labs community building and more. Where I fit into the work, I’m still working out but it’s only week 1 so… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

What’s on my mind?

Every week I will share the questions I’ve been tackling the past week. Get in touch if you want to chat or have an insight to share.

  • How should the federal public service define innovation? Is it something that is novel? Something that is useful? Something that is both novel and useful? Something small or something big? Are we measuring imitation or adaptation? Intentional or unintentional? Do innovations have to be successful (most definitions assume successfully)?
  • Is an organization more innovative if it does more dissemination?
  • When we measure “innovation” are we measuring the process or the result?
  • What is the number one driver of innovation? If we assume innovation is based on a novel thing then meeting the requirements of legislation or regulation could be considered innovation?

And before I wrap up, I want to make a personal appeal. I’m a co-founder and Chair of the Board for an Ottawa based charity called Suits his Style. We provide professional men’s clothing to low-income people so they can be self-confident and make a good first impression. Since August 2014, we’ve helped over 1700 clients. We need volunteers so I hope you put your hand up or know someone who will put their hand up.

“I will keep constant watch over myself and — most usefully — will put each day up for review. For this is what makes us evil — that none of us looks back upon our own lives. We reflect upon only that which we are about to do. And yet our plans for the future descend from the past.” — SENECA, MORAL LETTERS, 83.2”



Scott McNaughton

Working on public sector innovation one problem at a time. Found biking and hiking on weekends. Father of young baby… what is sleep?