- 1. Introduction
- 2. Essential pre-conditions for innovation
- 3. An innovation process model
- 4. Develop options and solutions
- 5. Implement
- 6. Check and evaluate
- 7. Adjust and disseminate
- 8. Across-boundary innovation
- 9. A transition to a new era of innovation in the public sector
- Appendix A — Selected case studies
- Appendix B — Summary of the literature review
- Appendix C — Key themes from interviews
- Appendix D — Acknowledgments
- Quick reference guide
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3. An innovation process model
In the public sector context, and regardless of their specific area of activity, public servants generally follow a broadly similar process in developing, implementing, monitoring and refining what they do. This process can be described as a ‘develop, implement, check and adjust model’.
Innovation is not just the generation of new ideas
Innovation goes beyond the creation of ‘good ideas’. It also necessarily involves the successful application of good ideas. All the steps in the innovation process model are important in realising the benefits of innovation. For the purposes of this Guide the generic ‘develop, implement, check and adjust model’ is used to provide a basis for explaining the innovation process in the public sector. The develop, implement, check and adjust model is depicted below.
The implementation of risk management procedures is a necessary part of decision-making processes adopted by agencies to enable them to maximise opportunities for innovative solutions. However, the key accountability features and related risk management processes adopted during an innovation cycle should be ‘fit for purpose’. That is, the degree of oversight and specific mitigation activities should be commensurate with the value, complexity and sensitivity associated with a particular initiative.
Innovation in the public sector can be categorised in various ways. A risk-based classification embodies a spectrum of risk tolerances and includes:
- refining existing processes (regular innovation);
- using existing ideas, processes or products in new areas (niche-creation innovation); and
- radical change of both the product/service and the market (transformative innovation).
Other risk tolerance considerations include whether:
- the problem that the innovation is designed to address is well formulated;
- similar innovations have been successful elsewhere;
- there is a clear plan for how the idea can be further developed; and
- the potential benefits have been estimated and are commensurate with the development cost.
If an initiative is judged to be of low risk, an agency’s internal instructions could specify a relatively straightforward process that complies with minimal requirements. As innovation risks increase, internal instructions could provide additional guidance such as the need to:
- engage with the community;
- use models, pilots and prototypes;
- engage ministers in the decision-making processes surrounding risks, innovations and experimentations;
- test ideas on a small sample of the population; and
- where possible, link the use of innovative approaches to choice rather than compulsion in the first instance.
The Innovation Risk Matrix shown below lists a number of features and expectations related to the innovation. Attention to these aspects will assist an entity to assess the relative risk level of an innovation, and determine a response that is ‘fit for purpose’ or proportionate to that level of risk. The Matrix poses a number of threshold questions related to an innovation to assist decision-makers to make these judgements.
Innovation Risk Matrix (in order to inform a proportionate response)
|Features of the innovation||
|1. Is the nature of the innovation incremental or transformative?|
|2. Is the entity’s experience with this type or scale of innovation limited or extensive?|
|3. Is the innovation within the entity’s control or will it require the involvement of other entities?|
|Expectations regarding the innovation|
|4. Are there sensitivities, as identified by stakeholders, around the impact of the innovation or the target population?|
|5. Are there sensitivities, as identified by stakeholders, around the means being used to apply the innovation (for example by compulsion or choice)?|
|6. Are there expectations, as identified by stakeholders, about the scope of the innovation, its resourcing and the time available to implement it?|
In determining a ‘fit for purpose’ approach to manage an innovation, entities should also consider the governance arrangements it establishes to oversight the innovation process and identify, mitigate and manage risks. Governance arrangements should be structured and proportionate to the risk profile of the initiative (as indicated by, for example, the value, scope, scale, complexity, timeframe and sensitivity of the particular initiative) and the phase of the innovation cycle. That is, where major consequences and significant uncertainties are apparent, the more rigorous the governance arrangements should be. Major reform proposals may warrant oversight by an interdepartmental committee, portfolio specific reforms by a departmental risk committee and straightforward program initiatives by line management.
Governance arrangements may need to be tailored to suit the phases of the innovation cycle, including governance structures, responsibilities and information requirements. As such, specific matters of governance are further discussed during the ‘develop’, ‘implement’, ‘check’ and ‘adjust’ phases of this Guide as relevant.
See Osborne S.P, and Brown, K, Managing Change and Innovation in Public Service Organisations, 2005.
 See Mulgan, G, and Albury, D, Innovation in the Public Sector, Cabinet Office Strategy Unit, United Kingdom Cabinet Office, 2003.
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