Public service organisations need more mature approach to risk and innovation to address current crisis says new briefing
Published Monday 11th June 12
The crisis facing public service organisations is now so severe that they need to experiment and start taking a mature approach to risk, by managing it and mitigating against the impact of potential failure.
This is the message of a new briefing, Innovation with ICT: easier said than done?, from Socitm, the professional association for ICT management in the public and third sectors.
While today's top management recognises the potential for ICT innovation to deliver solutions, they do not necessarily understand how, and because innovation inevitably involves some degree of experiment, it also means risk, and risk aversion has become ingrained into the culture of many organisations.
The briefing points out that innovating with ICT need not mean earth-shattering change, and may simply be about rethinking how to give policy-makers, the community and vulnerable individuals, what they need - exploiting information and technology to do so.
However, managing innovation is a very different matter to managing technology, says the briefing which shows how, in order to become innovative, organisations - and ICT functions within them - need people with particular characteristics.
The briefing identifies three roles: learners, organisers and builders. The defining characteristics of these roles do not need to be present in all individuals, but they do need to be developed and sustained across teams.
Learners are defined as active, experimental types who observe and work with people, who are prepared to try something, see what happens, modify in order to improve, and try again. They share their learning with others for the benefit of all. These types do not have a flash of inspiration that immediately solves the problem: they may need to overcome many failures as they work away doggedly to get their ideas right.
Organisers are people who can surmount or circumvent the obstacles that the organisation puts in their way, typically negative responses like: "We tried that 10 years ago. It didn't work then and it won't work now". These are people, says the briefing, who do not see boundaries to their job and who will recognise an opportunity or a need, and tackle it, neither looking to the hierarchy above them for permission nor for support.
Builders are managers who want their teams to innovate and recognise that their performance is affected by the physical and psychological work environment. They are also able to show empathy beyond the immediate team of peers to subordinates, supervisors, customers, suppliers and partners. Builders also develop the innovation through sharing knowledge
Finally, the briefing points out that innovation is not restricted to technologists but is often demonstrated by those who use technologies,
products or methods. Some of the most innovative ideas in the public sector come from staff doing their normal work, people who see a better way of doing things, or see a better use for an existing tool.
'Being in the spotlight of media attention, all public and community-based organisations avoid risk, says the author of the briefing, Chris Head. 'However, the issues that we face are now so serious that there is no choice but to experiment. Many solutions to current issues depend upon innovation in service delivery enabled by ICT, and managing this challenges ICT professionals with different skills that those of managing technology.'
Innovation with ICT: easier said than done? is available free of charge to Socitm Insight subscribers.
Vicky Sargent, Socitm Press Office
Tel: 07726 601 139 e-mail: email@example.com
Martin Greenwood, Programme Manager, Socitm Insight
Tel: 01926 498703 or 07967 383755 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org