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Empowering innovation in the public sector

Sunday, September 25, 2016 - 13:25

By AIM Education & Training CEO Peter Mobbs

At our recent Beyond the Boardroom in Canberra, a point of discussion was around the current government’s innovation agenda, which is now placing new pressures on the public sector in Australia. Innovation means being more agile, responsive and open to new ways of doing things, which in any business or organisation of scale has its inherent difficulties so the challenge for the public sector is significant.

Disruptive digital technologies such as cloud computing, big data analytics and mobile technology are all changing the ways that stakeholders and organisations interact with each other. As these new technologies further permeate our daily lives, our expectations grow for improved experiences with public sector agencies.

Interestingly, the Study of Australian Leadership released earlier this year revealed that public sector organisations were more likely than private sector organisations to have reported high levels of innovation. So while the public sector faces ongoing pressure to innovate in their operations, it appears to be a challenge they’re meeting head on.

Innovation will always be driven by the people within an organisation. It’s easy to pay lip service to the need for more innovative services as well as the technology that enables innovation but unless change is driven from the inside, these innovations will never get the support they need to flourish. Sometimes a good idea is the easy part of being innovative, whereas finding the time to actually put the idea into action can be the major hurdle.

Capability development is another area that we know from research has an immediate need in the public sector, particularly within middle management. Middle managers are frequently asked to step up and take on a more diverse portfolio of responsibilities and there are currently significant capability gaps for this reason.

The ongoing push for greater efficiency across the public sector is also causing low levels of engagement as agencies are increasingly asked to do more with less. From our own experience, we know that one of the best ways to build engagement is to move away from a task focus to a clearer focus on people through skills development, which in turn builds self-efficacy and confidence.

By providing public sector managers with the knowledges sets and essential skills they need to operate as effective managers and leaders, agencies will then be able to see significant improvements in engagement which will have a flow on effect for improving efficiency and empowering innovation. When we enable managers to operate at their full capability, we empower them to find new and innovative ways of operating our organisations for the better.

AIM has a long and proud association with the public sector, working with a cross-section of organisations, both at state and federal level, providing organisation-wide development programs for public sector managers, senior managers and executives. Our expertise draws from a wealth of knowledge from the Centre for Public Management (CPM), an AIM division with more than 20 years’ experience at the heart of the public sector.

To find out how we can partner with your organisation for improving your management and leadership capability, please visit www.aim.com.au/public-sector