Open Innovation For Government: Your People are Resources (2/5)

In our previous post, we took a high level view on the drivers for, and new approaches to, innovation within the public sector. In this follow up article we will explore the considerable innovative capacity, capability and potential within teams, departments and organisations across the public sector, and look at the various approaches to engaging and unlocking this.

We live in a social age, where Facebook and Twitter permeate and where social is an absolutely essential part of the overall strategy for a public sector organisation. However, in a social age we should not neglect the rich source of potential innovation and insight from within our organisations. It seems that all too often businesses have embraced the outwardly social but done little or nothing internally. Ironically, where businesses have acted on social it has been to disable access to these social tools on work IT equipment rather than to encourage more social collaboration within the workplace.

There is a wind of change and it seems that we are slowly waking up to this realisation. The drivers of the knee-jerk reaction to ban social media within organisations are not, as are usually stated, down to concerns over lost productivity (after all there is significant empirical proof that more engaged organisations are more productive), but more borne out of the reality that social media within a business doesn’t really work and that for it to work more enterprise/specialist/secure/fit for purpose tools, approaches, cultures and (unfortunately) policies are required.

Opening up to this allows us to test the theory that our peers and co-workers are surely the richest source of informed ideas and fresh thinking. As such, sure these are exactly the people we should be seeking to engage, to challenge and to collaborate with, especially in times where overall engagement and morale is at historically low levels. Pauline Shakespeare, Design Leadership Programme Service Manager at the Design Council believes that building teams across service directorates, hierarchies and disciplines helps drive governments towards innovation, so long as they collaborate. We’re now seeing a push towards collaboration as a valuable process rather than a distraction.

Over the past 5 or so years a new generation of enterprise software has emerged and continues to evolve that offers more ever more collaborative approaches to working, knowledge sharing and innovation. Idea management software is a specialist sector that brings a set of tools and processes to an organisation and facilitates open innovation within secure and manageable communities. For the first time technology is bringing innovation to a grass roots level, putting real process behind ideas, transforming where ideas come from (and how they are captured), but more importantly how those ideas, and that data, are handled, managed, learned from and prioritised. The emergent cultures are more engaged, more productive and more open.

Of course, your colleagues, peers and co-workers are not the only source of great ideas. In our next post we will look at extending this innovation focus to those beyond your immediate organisation and considering the opportunities and risks associated with this.

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Editor’s note: Simon Hill’s series on Open Innovation for Government can be found on his Innovation Excellence author page.

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Simon Hill is CEO and co-founder of Wazoku, an innovation management company; an Associate Director with the venture capital firm Find Invest Grow; and an active member of the London technology and entrepreneurial community.

Simon Hill




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