The webinar on how to build an innovation culture took place on 20 April 2021.
903 registrations, from 61 different countries in the world, 534 participants, a host from Norway and 6 keynote speakers calling in from Argentina, Norway, The Netherlands, 2 different cities in the UK and Spain.
The public sector urgently needs innovation to meet tomorrow’s expectations. The increasingly demanding public wants efficient and user-friendly services, preferably yesterday. A lot of people have learned the lingo of innovation. Most public organisations have an innovation team. And, innovation strategies are being written all over the world.
Yet, innovation is more than theory; innovation is also implementation. As Peter Drucker said: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. How can we build a culture for innovation in the public sector? Which barriers and enablers do we encounter? What does it require to work successfully with innovation in the public sector? These questions were subject of the webinar.
On this page you can watch the webinar (again), read a short summary per keynote, find the links shared in the webinar and in the chat, and read the presentations by the keynote speakers.
Thomas Hoholm: The importance of leadership in building an innovation culture
Head of Department and Associate Professor at Dept Strategy and Entrepreneurship, at the BI Norwegian Business School in Norway
Innovation is mandated in all parts, and at all levels, of the public sector. Even so, it is hard to manage innovation. There is an inescapable tension between bureaucracy and expertise on the one hand and innovation and change on the other – different types of skills are required.
BI Norwegian Business School trains healthcare managers. A thousand managers say they lack time and backing from their managers. The very same leaders say that there is actually more room for action and support for innovation than they thought. It is possible to train people and change the culture of organizations towards being more innovation-oriented.
So what is innovation culture and how is it created?
Firstly, culture is shaped through action – doing things differently! Indicators of ‘innovation culture’ (an oxymoron, by the way) are found in:
- Tools, skills (interdisciplinary), resources, incentives, keeping people accountable for doing their work.
- Psychological safety – raising one’s voice, admitting to failure and learning from it, testing new things without asking for permission all the time (‘bootlegging’).
- Boundary work – competitive, collaborative, configurative (Improving skills to do better to protect our boundaries – innovation is collaborative and interorganisational).
By definition, innovation is uncertain and controversial. When we practice innovation skills we are in fact destroying and recombining knowledge and practices. This creates anxiety, for people fear not mastering innovation or not having a role in it. This requires change management and good relational practice. Furthermore, we are redistributing tasks and rewards.
The key point of this talk is about how people in top management may provide support for innovation. Hoholm gives an example in which two employees were asked to take on an innovation project, but were getting nowhere, because top management had other agendas and was holding the project hostage to buy time for difficult decisions. Hoholm thinks these things happen quite frequently, both in the private and in the public sector. Employees are asked to take innovative action, formalize this in terms of routines and systems in order to mobilize decisions and resources. Their managers may either give them their full support, or hold back because they maintain their own choices. Management is controlling portfolios, while innovators have just this one project they need to focus on.
If innovation culture is found in the three indicators above, then leadership needs to demonstrate
- Transparency about issues of power: decisions, priorities;
- Authenticity in backing trial and error learning;
- Humility in collective reflection.
These are the readings Thomas mentioned in his talk and Q&A. The first source is an accessible and practitioner oriented book, the second and third are research papers in top journals.
- Professor Amy Edmondson’s (Harvard) book for managers and practitioners about psychological safety:
Edmondson, A. C. (2018). The fearless organization: Creating psychological safety in the workplace for learning, innovation, and growth. John Wiley & Sons.
- Professor Ann Langley (HEC Montreal) and colleagues’ literature review paper about boundary work:
Langley, A., Lindberg, K., Mørk, B. E., Nicolini, D., Raviola, E., & Walter, L. (2019). Boundary work among groups, occupations, and organizations: From cartography to process. Academy of Management Annals, 13(2), 704-736.
- Professor Paula Criscuolo (Imperial College London) and colleagues’ quantitative study of bootlegging in big companies:
Criscuolo, P., Salter, A., & Ter Wal, A. L. (2014). Going underground: Bootlegging and individual innovative performance. Organization Science, 25(5), 1287-1305.
Want to know more? Watch the replay or have a look at the presentation by Thomas Hoholm.
Pauline Carnet, Becky Miller and Nina Cutler: Innovative methods for policymaking
Pauline is senior adviser on sociology and film ethnography at Policy Lab UK, Becky is Policy Lab UK’s service and communication designer and Nina is policy designer at Policy Lab UK
Policy Lab works openly and collaboratively across UK government. They sit on the ‘edge’, drawing in expertise not traditionally associated with policymaking. Their starting point for policy projects is the Double Diamond model. Where policy usually focuses on the second diamond, Policy Lab tries to include and insure the importance of the exploration and discovery phase in the first diamond. The innovation team ensures that teams throughout the government are connected and develop an ‘open mind’. They facilitate innovative ways to look at policymaking. And give a new meaning to evidence-based policy through design methods and ethnographic research.
They also introduce and use innovative methods. Pauline Carnet spoke about her job as a Senior Ethnographer. Ethnography is observing the daily activities to deeply understand the every-day lives of people. Before Corona, that involved observing and documenting people’s daily lives with a camera, filming their every-day activities. Now, they use video diaries and online interviews. Key is to explore, focus and evaluate in terms of policy impact.
Another ‘innovative’ discipline is Speculative Design, Nina Cutler explained. This type of design gives an insight into the future. They provide and bring to life future scenarios of possible futures. It’s used to provoke discussion, helping policy makers to reflect and reveal unintended consequences.
The third innovative method they use is system mapping. This makes complex information visible. It shows the broader picture and gives an overview of all the actors, connections and dependencies in a system. It helps to give insights into the base of a problem.
Everything is focused on helping policymakers understand things better and giving them tools to make better informed and user-based policies.
Want to know more? Watch the replay or have a look at the presentation by Pauline Carnet, Becky Miller and Nina Cutler.
Jeroen Vonk: How do we make government innovation fun?
Innovation Designer at Novum Innovation Lab in The Netherlands
5 tips on creating better services for citizens from Jeroen:
- When exploring new things: always think about the people you’re doing it for.
- Work with a multidisciplinary and diverse team. This is more effective than a more homogeneous team.
- Test with real people.
- Fail and correct and then fail again.
- You have to solve complicated things. In doing so: search for the yes, not for the no.
Want to know more? Watch the replay or have a look at the presentation by Jeroen Vonk.
Agustina Maggiore: Fostering cross-agency collaboration
Innovation methodologies manager in the General Directorate of Innovation of Buenos Aires City Government in Argentina
Agustina Maggiore gave a presentation on public sector culture change and how better collaboration is key to innovation. Her innovation team is part of a 800-people strong Secretariat of Innovation and Digital Transformation, a cross-government agency created in early 2020.
A case study in cross-government collaboration was a project that brought together 3 ministries (Education, Labour and Social Services) to create a platform that connects job seekers with relevant work-related educational programmes delivered by Buenos Aires City Government. They discovered that a slower pace is sometimes needed at the beginning of a project, so they decided to add a Discovery phase that allowed them to build a shared understanding through an immersive collaborative experience.
What slowing down meant for them:
- Setting up a cross-functional team that allowed them to move away from a vertical structure to a horizontal one.
- Slowing down the decision-making process. Sometimes moving backward is needed to adjust the course of a project.
- Slow down for system-wide thinking.
Insights and outcomes:
- Insight: In order to build alignment they needed to build a common language.
- Outcome: They built a shared understanding of innovation through the creation of a set of ‘Digital Transformation Principles’.
- Insight: Better synergy between teams was needed.
- Outcome: They needed to build a safe environment for trust and collaboration to thrive. They set up a community of practice for like-minded government innovators called ‘Transformadores’ (Transformers).
Want to know more? Watch the replay or have a look at the presentation by Agustina Maggiore.
These links to articles, webpages and websites were shared in the chat:
- The International Design in Government community is a group of design-minded people from governments all over the world. The purpose is to learn from each other, share best practice and design patterns, and discuss shared challenges so that we can try and work on them together.
- If you work in government and you’d like to join the International Design in Government community and the monthly calls, you can apply to join the Google Group and the Slack group.
- The International Design in Government community has a Google Group, Slack group, monthly calls and events in various cities. You can read about the activities on the Design in Government blog.
- Policy Lab is bringing new policy techniques to the departments across the civil service, helping design services around people’s experience, using data analytics and new digital tools.
- Policy Lab brings people-centred design approaches to policy-making. We provide policy teams with practical support to better understand the people they are trying to reach, and work with them to co-design new solutions.
- Novum Innovation Lab.
- Some of the standards and best practices of Novum Innovation Lab.
- Novum Innovation Lab: Voice is going to change the internet.
- Blog about the Challenge Canvas of Novum Innovation Lab and why it is useful to use it when you start an innovative project.
- The Voicebot is a Google Action that runs on the Google Assistant, to answer the most frequently asked general questions about the AOW. Novum Innovation Lab used this voicebot, in the form of a prototype, to test whether this new channel can meet the needs of the customer.
- Stop Distinguishing Between Execution and Strategy by Roger L. Martin.
- Blog on Futuryst: What are good resources to find out more about speculative design?
- Blog GOV.UK: Using speculative design to explore the future of Open Justice.
- Consequence scanning tool developed by doteveryone.
- Speculative everything by Dunne and Raby
With 534 participants from all over the world, a host from Norway and 6 keynote speakers calling in from Argentina, Norway, The Netherlands, 2 different cities in the UK and Spain it was a massive production. Behind the scenes:
This webinar was organised by the international Design in Government community:
- D-box – National Center for Transforming public services , consisting of DOGA (Design and Architecture Norway, AHO (the Oslo School of architecture and design) and BI (Norwegian business school)
- Forum for service design, a network of professionals in the Municipality of Oslo
- The Dutch community Gebruiker Centraal (User Needs First)
- The Secretariat of Innovation and Digital Transformation from the City of Buenos Aires (TBD)