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7. Adjust and disseminate

Innovation is a dynamic process that involves people learning from experience, disseminating the lessons learnt and absorbing and anticipating new developments.

Innovation ADJUST_02.eps

The key elements of the adjust and disseminate phase of the innovation process are outlined in this section of the Guide.

During an innovation cycle, lessons will be learned about the factors that contributed to both the success and failures associated with an initiative. The risks at this phase include: the inability of an organisation to ‘stay ahead of the game’; the loss of the knowledge obtained by those with implementation experience; and the associated costs of rediscovery, duplication or error if this information is not shared. Effective ways to minimise these risks include: scanning the environment; disseminating the lessons learned; and considering future data needs.

7.1 Reconsider aspirations and objectives

Take a broad view

Innovation requires that basic questions continue to be asked and underlying assumptions challenged. This includes periodically reconsidering whether the high-level aspirations and the objectives of an initiative are still appropriate and correctly framed.

Understanding actual and emerging changes in the environment in which an initiative is operating is essential for relevance and sustainability. These changes may be political, legislative, client issues, stakeholder concerns, general community views, international developments and technological advances. Unless these broad environmental factors are monitored, their possible relevance and implications understood and strategic responses developed, then an organisation’s ability to stay ahead of the game through innovation will be severely constrained. Indeed there are cases where organisations have been found wanting due to becoming unduly internally focussed and failing to change.

Manage innovation risks: scan the environment

To a greater or lesser extent environmental scanning will be an element of most officers’ roles, particularly Senior Executive Service officers. However, systematic information sharing is likely to be more effective if supported by organisational processes. These can range from relatively simple and widely-used mechanisms such as conferences, seminars and strategic planning days, to electronic communications of various kinds.

Of overarching importance are the policies and priorities of the government of the day. Strategic, focussed discussions with ministers and their offices are important means of identifying possible new or changed directions, particularly when informed by prior agency analysis.

 

Major reforms are sometimes required

Following a series of incidents the Department of Immigration and Citizenship embarked on a major reform program. Key lessons for the broader public sector from reforms over the past four years are the importance of integrating culture, planning and information technology; and the development of a leadership team to build a united department and draw out its collective strengths.

 

7.2 Build on experience and success

Learn lessons well

Building on success has several dimensions, ranging from the obvious value of confirming what works, to motivating the individuals and teams involved. It must be recognised that success is often hard-won and takes time and can often come from absorbing and adapting lessons from groups and organisations external to the team.

Being alert to the views and experience of citizens, clients and stakeholders in a practical sense, or in other words being able to stand in the shoes of a client, is invaluable to inform innovation. Not only are they able to offer new and practical insights and different perspectives, but they will often ask searching questions that will both challenge and illuminate. An ongoing and meaningful client and stakeholder consultation and engagement strategy is not just good business practice but will pay huge dividends in terms of innovation.

Manage innovation risks: disseminate the lessoned learned

Don’t recreate the wheel

When breaking new or different ground, valuable lessons will be learnt from experience. Innovation will be enhanced if there are processes in place to capture and assess both informal and formal lessons.

It is useful for organisations to have explicit policies and procedures to support wide dissemination of knowledge so the responsibility is not only left with the organisational unit concerned. While a number of APS communities of practice have been established (for example the Department of Finance and Deregulation convenes regular Chief Finance Officer and Chief Information Officer Forums) and other specialised resources are provided (for example the Australian Public Service Commission’s ‘Connected Government’ web site and publications), research for this Guide suggests that cross-organisational dissemination appears to be an area which deserves further attention in order to enhance innovation in the APS.

Tell the world

The outcomes of review and evaluation processes and reports produced can be very effective in disseminating valuable experience and lessons not just within organisational units but more broadly within and across organisations. Common techniques are to distribute executive summaries or key points, arrange roundtable discussions and seminars and publish documents on intra-nets and the Internet. Comprehensive, accessible and readily searchable web sites, and increasingly on-line forums and other networking mechanisms, are essential knowledge dissemination tools.

Participation in high profile public awards such as the annual Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Public Sector Management, the Australian Government Information Management Office’s Excellence in e-Government Awards, and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission’s (Comcare) Safety Awards are valuable vehicles for identifying and promoting innovations within organisations, across portfolios and across jurisdictions.

 

Stakeholder engagement

The CSIRO has established a Flagships Advisory Committee for each of its National Research Flagships to ensure their ongoing management and development is informed by the views and involvement of key stakeholders. [See Appendix A.6 for more detail.]

 

7.3 Prepare for the next development cycle

Plan for the future

Consideration of future opportunities and challenges and their implications will help prepare for the next cycle of innovation and maintain innovation momentum. A proactive stance will be assisted by maintaining strategic, future-oriented capabilities and capacities, which could involve strategic research, analysis and fore-sighting type initiatives. While choices will need to be made about the extent to which resources are devoted to anticipating the future, and the need will vary between organisations, it is an important element of a comprehensive organisational innovation strategy.

The Productivity Commission has identified the importance of evaluations in providing an evidence base to underpin reform processes.[11] The Productivity Commission also suggests that the lack of evaluation activity makes it difficult to comment on the effectiveness or otherwise of government interventions. Clearly an evidence-based approach to policy, program and regulation development and design, based on the best practicable data, information and analysis, will provide a better understanding of the nature of the issues being addressed and the implications of possible responses.

Manage innovation risks: consider future data requirements

It is important that new ideas and policy initiatives be informed from the earliest stages by evidence-based data. Considerations include: what data and information already exists; whether the data is of adequate quality; and what further data may be required and whether, and how, that data might be collected.

 

Taking the next step

Following the publication of the first Intergenerational Report, the Treasury undertook further refinement of the underpinning methodologies and analysis. Treasury used the ‘population, participation and productivity’ (3 Ps) framework for developing projections of real Gross Domestic Product and real Gross Domestic Product per person introduced in the second Intergenerational Report. [See Appendix A.10 for more detail.]

 

7.4 Key lessons

 

Even with smoothly functioning initiatives there is no room for complacency. Organisations must be continuously looking to adjust and improve what they do and how they do it. Key issues to consider, depending on the circumstances, in the adjust, improve and disseminate phase are:

  • reconsider the initial aspirations and objectives to ascertain whether they are still current;
  • understand the impact of the initiative since first implemented and subsequent developments in the internal and external environment;
  • build on experience and success and take account of lessons learnt;
  • engage citizens, clients and stakeholders in the consideration of possible adjustments and new directions;
  • disseminate the results as widely as practicable; and
  • look to the future and prepare for the next development cycle to improve processes or responsiveness.

 


[11]Banks, G, Evidence-based policy making: What is it? How do we get it?, Speech to the Australian and New Zealand School of Government /Australian National University Lecture Series, 4 February 2009.

 

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