A guide to implementing innovation in the public sector

Monday, June 19, 2017 - 13:00
AIM Blog - A guide to implementing innovation in the public sector

Public sector organisations must strive towards innovation to keep up with the ever-changing expectations of customers in a digital world. However, this is easier said than done when innovation can be defined in so many ways. It’s the ambiguity around the meaning of ‘innovation’ that can make it seem like it’s just another overused buzzword for business professionals.

So, what does it truly mean to be an innovative business in the public sector?

What is innovation?

Innovation involves coming up with ideas for creating more effective processes and products. We’ve become accustomed to the belief that innovation is simply a shiny new piece of technology or software. While innovation does involve a measure of creativity (and occasional genius), innovation can also involve small changes across a business. Whether it’s a new customer service process or a streamlined data collection system, these are the innovations that make a real difference to an organisation’s productivity, efficiency and long term success.

How can public sector organisations embed innovation across their organisation?

Recognise the need to improve skills and knowledge for innovation

While we celebrate the organisations who have made it their mission to be innovative, we’re often reluctant when it comes to doing it ourselves because the vast majority of us haven’t been taught how to innovate. There will always be those people with the natural born talent for innovation, but for most people it’s a learned skill. Take the time to learn about innovation and how to apply innovative strategies in your workplace.

Assess your organisation’s current innovation capabilities and culture

Before implementing any kind of innovation strategy, it’s important to assess your company’s current appetite for innovation. An important measure for public sector organisations is to consider the internal ability and competence for innovation. Find objective measures for assessing your organisation’s culture and processes in terms of how they contribute to innovation.

Leverage the innovation expertise you already have

Examine the current state of play and look at the value of your employees’ skills, knowledge and experience to see how these resources could potentially generate opportunities for your organisation to evolve and renew itself. The extent to which skills, values and culture are adapted for innovation can be measured by assessing the competence levels of employees at each level of your organisation.

Let staff take ownership of innovation

Innovation will always be driven by the employees in your organisation. Government leaders are often quick to spruik the need for more innovative services across the public sector but change still needs to be driven from the inside, otherwise these innovations will never get the support they need to be delivered. Creating a good idea can often be the easy part of innovation, while finding the time, resources and capacity to put the idea to work is incredibly difficult.

Embed innovation into your HR strategy

Human resources departments in the public sector need to begin measuring current competence as well as the training programs and professional development opportunities that can encourage greater innovation. This way, public sector leaders can develop a holistic view of how their human resources activities are contributing to overall innovation capability.

Empower your managers

Capability development is an area we know every public-sector agency needs to invest in, particularly within middle management. These managers are frequently asked to step up and take on a more diverse portfolio of responsibilities which tests their capabilities in a number of ways. In the struggle to deliver competent performance across a variety of measures, innovative and creative thinking often falls by the wayside.

Don’t short-change your innovation initiatives

The never-ending impetus for greater efficiency also causes low levels of engagement as government departments are frequently asked to do more with less. By providing public sector managers and leaders with the full set of capabilities they need to operate effectively managers and leaders, they’ll become more engaged, which has a flow on effect for improving efficiency and empowering innovation.

To be more innovative, the public sector relies on building high-performing individuals and teams, as part of a broader focus on departmental performance. Be it accredited courses or customised strategic thinking programs, AIM can work with you to deliver high-quality and effective learning outcome that drive the innovation you need.

We understand your challenges, whether you’re trying to find the balance between risk management and innovation, struggling to find someone that understands your complex policies and procedures, or trying to find the right balance between technical expertise and management skills. To find out how AIM can help your team become more innovative, call 1300 658 337 or download your guide to public sector programs.