How to create a culture of enterprise innovation in the public sector

Australian citizens and businesses have some of the highest expectations of technology in the world, writes, KJR CEO Ashley Howden

The words “innovation” and “public sector” are rarely – if ever – used in the same sentence. Various regulations in the public sector mean most new technology is often adopted very slowly or avoided completely.

For government and other public sector organisations, the problem they face is that Australian citizens and businesses have some of the highest expectations of technology in the world. Australia is the sixth most concentrated smartphone market in the world, ahead of the US, UK and Japan.

Australian consumers expect to be able to access what they want, when they want and how they want.

Public sector organisations need to shift their attitude to innovation and begin adopting technology or risk disconnecting with their customers – or voters!

In most cases, there is an appetite for innovation at the top level as well as at the grass roots. It’s usually middle management that crush suggestions of change.

Creating an open stream is critical to fostering innovation and allowing ideas from the bottom to be considered. However, putting a business plan together for this is increasingly difficult.

How can organisations with a fear of change create a culture of innovation? Here are three simple steps to implement a process of adopting new technology:

1. Create clear deliverables

For managers, the problem with implementing innovative technology is seeing the return on investment.

Outlining a set of deliverables to measure success by will mean managers can be confident in the program and can evaluate the performance of different technology.

- Over a 6 month period you will deliver 6 prototypes/pilots that can be assessed by your audience/executive team and/or organisation
- Then you can make a decision on which of those prototypes do you want to pursue – which ones do you give second round funding to and turn into a quality product

2. Talk to people

Implementing new technology can be a slow process, especially if you’re trying to do it on your own.

Talk to people who have had experience innovating in the past and can provide advice on how best to introduce new technology. It maybe that holding a meeting to discuss the new initiative will encourage more people to adopt it, or speaking to managers and getting them to share it with their staff could boost adoption.

Find out what has worked for others and use it as a guide.

3. Involve middle management in the process

Transitioning from the innovation stage to implementation across the organisation and continuing momentum is often the toughest part of introducing new tech.

Including quality assurance management in the innovation process means they have the opportunity to get to know the new technology and can plan ahead for how they will integrate the new programs and processes into the organisation.

When it comes time for implementation, the QA managers have already done some of the thinking about how they can make the transition as smooth as possible.

Providing a clear set of deliverables and being transparent throughout the process will make a huge difference in implementing new technologies for public sector organisations. For businesses that are hesitant towards change, it just takes baby steps to get the ball rolling.

Ashley Howden is the CEO of KJR

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