Innovating in public sector organisations - finding a path amongst the rules

In a world built on old rules and systems, how does anyone imagine the possible let alone realise it?

Hierarchy, processes, rules, dare I say are the norm in public sector organisations. These are designed to create stability, predictability, accountability — allow for scale, delivery of value and steer us towards the long-term. These organisations inhabit systems that may require life-long commitment to witness a true transformation. And yet, what we see is they have many shifting layers of differing speeds, porosity, and appetite for change, that can be influenced to realise positive outcomes for citizens.

Humans are hardwired for short-termism, our present bias, means we give more weight to payoffs now over those in future moments. Our next pay-check, the next successful project, the next budget, next year’s review, all undoubtedly mean that day-to-day actions are controlled somewhat by this premise.

How do we use incremental change in the short-term, that might just reveal a path to breakthrough innovation or indeed large-scale transformation in the long term?

Sow seeds. Send bold, brave new ideas freely into the world in the hope they take root. By letting others care and shape them, means those ideas you can’t implement now can create positive traction for all.

Make new friends, befriend your competition and create allies to capture the value of the network. Start thinking about those in your systems trying to achieve similar things, join up, organise, share and use the power of the collective to create even greater change.

Build and prospect. Build prototypes that let you test and simulate the future to learn and understand the opportunities. Prospect data for insights to develop a hypothesis and use these insights in decision making.

Draw a roadmap to the future. Viable ideas, without a strategy for implementation, are wasted opportunities. Look beyond the first demonstrator projects to the actions required along the way and be prepared to take unexpected turns.

Sing loudly. Use strong, united voices, to make those around listen, join in and push the status quo. State your views, share your failures, be prepared to be wrong, speak out and help others find their voice. Many voices together can change the rules of tomorrow.

Tell stories, and let them unfold as the view on the horizon grows closer. Use stories to take clients and colleagues (who are not ready) on a journey, let them discover small new things along the way, revealing the big picture up front might mean they run and hide.

Creating change in public sector organisations for positive citizen outcomes requires multi-sized, multi-dimensional approaches across different layers and timelines. Push the boundaries of today’s project, whilst using your next event, partnership and plan to create steps in cultivating for tomorrow.

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MELANIE RAYMENT I  +44 (0)7494 936 787