Innovation - a catalyst for change

Innovation in the public sector is the process of translating an idea into a new or improved service that ultimately creates value in the delivery of public services.

Real innovation must be replicable at an economical cost and must satisfy a specific need. Innovation involves deliberate application of information, imagination and initiative in deriving greater or different values from resources, and includes all processes by which new ideas are generated and converted into useful services or products. In business, innovation often results when ideas are applied by a company in order to further satisfy the needs and expectations of the customers. In a social context, innovation helps create new methods for alliance creation, joint venturing, flexible work hours, and creation of buyers’ purchasing power. Innovations can be divided into two broad categories:

  • Evolutionary innovations (continuous or dynamic evolutionary innovation) that are brought about by many incremental advances in technology or processes
  • Revolutionary innovations (also called discontinuous innovations) which are often disruptive and new

Innovation is synonymous with risk-taking and organisations that create revolutionary services or technologies take on the greatest risk because they can fail.

Information source

Hyper Island focuses on design based exercise and Social Care Research from the London School of Economics – that focuses primarily on measurement – but combined with the principles of change outlined on this website – they complement each other very well.

Related websites:
Hyperisland Toolbox
Social Care Research – Tools and Methods

Our thanks to...

Many thanks to Adam Walther of FutureGov for supplying this information for our website and for successfully applying these innovation concepts in the Wakefield Innovation Lab project.

1. Draw more

Drawing uses a different part of your brain; helping you to see problems differently. By visualising something you can also build a shared understanding of a problem or concept. You don’t have to be “good” at drawing, even the simplest sketch or visually dividing things up can really help get things out of your head and make them easier to understand.

Try it: Create an environment where it is easy for people to visualise things, make sure post-its and large sheets of paper and pens are always to hand. Give someone responsibility for sketching ideas a conversation during a meeting. If you’re presenting work use some visual aids, photos, drawings, screenshots, images often stay in the mind longer than words.

2. Think of the user’s perspective

Creating a service or product which meets you own needs or those of the organisation you work for is always going to be easier than tailoring it to the end users. However, if you want your service to work as effectively and efficiently as possible, challenging yourself to make it as relevant to its end users as possible is essential.

Try it: First you need to know who it is for. This can be a difficult thing to pin down, but generally speaking a product that is “for everyone” will in fact appeal to no one.

When you have understood who this person is, their needs, aspirations and barriers then ask ‘why would they use this?” Keep doing this at every stage during a project and don’t be afraid to change your idea if it isn’t working. Put pictures up of your end users to remind yourself who you’re building it for. Ask colleagues to act as an end users and give you feedback from this perspective, better still take what you’re working on outside and ask for feedback directly.

3. Spot opportunities

During any research, or you day to day job, you might spot things that don’t work properly and can be improved, or become a really elegant solution which you want to try. Design projects offer an opportunity to use these observations.

Try it: Set yourself the challenge of spotting and photographing ten different bits of design that you think could be improved. It could be a form you have to fill in, a product you’re using or a website. Keep a communal log of ideas and snags throughout a project.

4. Ask why

Designers often have the advantage of coming at a problem from the outside. This enables them to see things with fresh eyes and question things that may have become taken for granted within an organisation. This ‘productive ignorance’ can throw up new options and possibilities ‘insiders’ might not have been able to see.

Try it: You can replicate some of this by drafting someone from elsewhere in your organisation and asking them to act as a critical friend during a presentation or meeting.

5. Be open and collaborative

A key part of delivering innovative solutions is broadening the knowledge base which you work from, and getting lots of new input on a problem. Sharing your process and asking for input at every stage is a simple way of doing this.

Try it: Send weekly updates to people who have contributed to the project. Explain what you’ve been up to and what you’ll be doing next. Try creating an online space where you can share what you’re up to (twitter, pinterest, a blog), so anyone who wants to can check in.


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