Public sector innovation

From ideas to action

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Innovation is no longer just a buzzword. It is now seen as a potential solution to all problems and has become ubiquitous in both the private and public sectors. In the private sector, the need to be innovative has an obvious driver: staying ahead of the competition and delivering products and services that will increase market share and drive shareholder value. The case for innovation in the public sector, however, is less well defined but has many similarities.

Five reasons for public sector to innovateAs governments strive to balance priorities — including the effective allocation of resources and meeting public expectations — it is becoming increasingly clear that new approaches are needed. Governments will have to innovate and find ways to make difficult things easy in the areas of service delivery, process improvement, regulation and policy implementation.

Many private sector organizations struggle to define what innovation means and to effectively implement an operating model to enable it. This can be caused by many reasons, but some include:

  • Lack of a defined innovation strategy
  • No specific innovation process or framework
  • Limited budget or leadership capacity
  • The sheer size of an organization, with larger businesses tending to be bureaucratic and slow moving

On top of this, the public sector must deal with public scrutiny, and the traditionally risk-averse approach of governments. So how can the public sector effectively innovate to serve citizens better and more efficiently?

The first step is clearly understanding what is driving the need to innovate — whether it’s better allocating resources, keeping up with citizens’ expectations, working with the private sector to ensure a competitive economy, or attracting the next generation of public sector leaders. Second, public sector organizations need to clearly understand what it is they’re trying to innovate — services, processes, regulatory models or policy design and implementation. And last but most important, public sector leaders need to clearly understand what operating model they intend to use to enable innovation given their specific needs, circumstances and talents.

In innovation, as it has in some other areas, government can learn from the approaches taken in the private sector, but ultimately has to chart its own course.


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