Innoflation and incognivation
I’m just back from the OECD conference on public sector innovation. It was a really interesting couple of days hearing about examples from countries all around the world trying to innovate to make the public sector work better for citizens.
The conference kicked off with a keynote from Christian Bason, the new Chief Executive of the Danish Design Centre, and, given some work I’ve been doing on the motivation of public servants to innovate (to be published in December), I was particularly interested in what he had to say about how we enable staff to innovate. He suggested that we need to ‘insource’ innovation in government and challenge leaders when they find it uncomfortable to let their managers listen to citizens.
The OECD then launched their new Observatory of Public Sector Innovation that showcases examples from all of their member countries of how the public sector is innovating – it looks like a great resource for people searching for inspiration and connections.
I then went along to the innovation talks to get a quick taster of innovations I hadn’t come across before.
My favourites were:
- zero licensing in Lisbon, which tackled the ridiculous number of licenses a restaurant owner had to apply for, resulting in one grateful entrepreneur sending a letter to the authorities covered in lipstick kisses, so grateful was she at being able to easily open her own business
- the Reykjavik metropolitan police approach of using social media to engage citizens (people really love pictures of police with kittens it seems)
- Turkish e-visas, which transformed the experience of arriving in Turkey, so much so that it took the millionth user three minutes to apply for a visa online, but over a week to be convinced that it really was the government phoning her to congratulate her on being the millionth user
- How the gap between evidence and innovation can be bridged and has been by the White House through a really interesting approach, presented by Andy Feldman who runs the excellent GovInnovator blog
I was then on a panel in the Innovation Labs session facilitated by MindLab, presenting our research on iteams, 20 innovation units, teams and funds from around the world, alongside Marco Steinberg, who drew on his experiences at SITRA and the Helsinki Design Lab, Paul Maltby talking about the Cabinet Office's Policy Lab experience, and Stephanie Wade, Director of the Innovation Lab at Office of Personnel Management in the US.
There were some great responses from Juan Felipe Lopez Egana from the Public Innovation Committee in Chile, Jennifer Miller, Director of Policy Innovation at the Privy Council Office in Canada, Alex Roberts from the DesignGov team in the Australian government, and Francoise Waintrop, Head of Innovation from the Secretariat General for Modernisation of Public Action in France.
We then got people to work designing a Lab to tackle an issue they had identified, to get them thinking about the kinds of questions that Labs face.
This was followed by a session on Innovation Capacity, which seems to me to be the key to public sector innovation. We spent the time discussing how to use incentives, motivation, and skills to get right workforce for the future.
It was great to have a union perspective from Åsa Erba-Stenhammar from Sweden, who rightly pointed out that if a large percentage of the public sector workforce have the wrong skills we need to work constructively together to help public servants shift from being producers of services to ‘facilitators of outcomes’ (as Gary Banks from New Zealand articulated it). We also busted the myth that innovation is done by young people.
The OECD’s ‘The innovation imperative: a call to action’ was then launched and discussed, which leads me to my two favourite new terms used in the discussion by Jorrit de Jong, Academic Director of the Innovations in Government programme at Harvard’s Kennedy School:
- innoflation – the overuse of term innovation, and
- incognivation – those doing the real work without drawing attention to themselves