‘How do we make government innovative’. If it is not a place for innovation then we may as well sell up, shut up shop and leave it to the perils of the market to determine our public services fate. Instead we need to create the conditions in which innovation can take place. That is, create the conditions for new things to happen and if they are new the outcomes are not as predictable. In the swings and roundabouts of the free markets, measuring innovation is essential due to the rewards of capturing markets, and the financial penalty of business failure. It is futile for the public sector to ape all these business behaviours as these conditions simply do not apply.
Instead it needs to create the “conditions for innovation”. These include:
1) – A readiness to change and seek better solutions to problems
2) – Rewarding people for experimentation and doing things differently, otherwise the public sector cannot locate change and improvement let alone begin to seek it out
3) – Involving all the players who can make a difference and design better public service solutions. That means citizens, the frontline staff, managers and policy makers. Otherwise knowledge, capability, understanding and ‘do-ability’ simply will not be maximized (do see my series of papers on this)
4) – Being transparent open and honest – we need to put in place systems that incentivise these behaviours. Otherwise excessive caution and protective behaviours will continue to prevail. The public sector needs to be allowed to try and fail.
The public sector needs to be bold and unpredictable especially where it is clearly not making progress and meeting challenging outcomes (reducing imprisonment, combating obesity and enabling all children to attain at school are merely three examples). Now may not be the best time for bold innovation, experimentation and change but as resources diminish it is probably more necessary than ever to do different and do better!
Here is the piece as it appeared Local Government Improvement and Development where it had a good hit rate Innovation in the public domain needs better conditions