ARTICLE | 2 AUGUST, 2014 | BY THORAYA KALIS
The need for public sector innovation is long overdue. In the present day and age of competitiveness, rapid technological advances, and product/service innovation, customers are quickly becoming harder to satisfy and engage.
For the public sector, the case should be no different. The public sector should reflect if not surpass the private sector in competitiveness, efficiency, and innovation. In Abu Dhabi, there have been great strides towards innovation in the Public Sector, especially with the introduction of the Abu Dhabi Excellence Award for Government Performance which actively promotes product and service innovation in the Public Sector. We have seen many great examples implemented across the Abu Dhabi sector in areas like new products and service introductions, e-services, social media, time and cost cutting innovations and many more. Government Entities such as the Abu Dhabi Police, Food Control Authority, Abu Dhabi Municipality, and Abu Dhabi Education Council to name a few, have been awarded for their contributions to Public Sector Excellence and their commitment to continuous improvement and innovation to enhance the quality of life for residents of Abu Dhabi.
The era of providing “basic” public services is coming to an end. Governments across the globe are under enormous pressure for public reforms, better services, and transparency. In response, the leading governments around the world have adopted their strategies to ensure that continuous improvement and innovation is a priority at the federal and local level. The Abu Dhabi Government’s Vision is to become one of the best governments in the world by international standards. In order to do this, creativity and innovation will be key factors in breaking away from traditional public sector administration and moving towards the creation of a truly “Excellent” government.
The purpose of this article is to provide a set of simple and practical steps to implementing a public sector innovation and creativity methodology. The steps described below have been aggregated after my research and observations on the subject of Public Sector Innovation.
Public sector innovation and creativity begins by asking questions to identify the core issue or problem – identifying the cause and not just the symptoms. For example, KPIs and statistics indicate a drop in University Enrollment among UAE Nationals? What is the root cause of this? Is itteaching, facilities, perception, etc? Talk to young locals in this demographic who face this issue. If necessary conduct other first-hand research ex. surveys.
The important thing is to conduct a thorough analysis of the situation to uncover root causes of problems and deep seeded issues rather than seek surface symptoms and quick fix solutions.
A better way is that of a forward thinking approach where the end result is visualized and a process of backward planning and execution is ensued, or as Steven Covey suggests, “begin with the end in mind”.
This allows innovators to always have their “eye on the prize” and to focus on eliminating obstacles along the way.
I use “Good Practices” and not “Best Practices” as there will never be a “one size fits all” solution to local problems. Good Practices are practices or operating models that are efficient and relevant to the local environment. They are relevant because the organization or government entity being benchmarked operates within similar internal and external environmental factors.
New problems in Abu Dhabi may be older problems elsewhere, where solutions have been implemented, and lessons have been learned. Save time and reduce risks and costs by benchmarking through second and first hand research.
As this step’s title suggests, there is no need to re-invent the wheel. Problems and issues have been faced by leading governments everywhere, and efficient and innovative solutions have been tried and tested.
Select the best solutions for your organization from international benchmarks and adapt it accordingly.
It is important to engage all stakeholders when planning on offering innovative solutions to existing problems. Talk to customers, other entities, suppliers, and everyone else that should be involved in the process to get their buy in and support. The more collaboration, input, and feedback you receive, the better the end result will be.
Prior to implementation of any innovation project, it is imperative the gain acceptance and involve the community through mass media, social media, and other forms of communication to let them know what is coming and create a “buzz”.
Recognition and celebration at both the launch and completion of any innovation project is important to motivate the community to support the project as well as future projects. It is also important to recognize and celebrate the efforts and commitment of key individuals who contributed to the project.
Recognition and celebration instills a sense of pride and ownership among members of the community, government entities involved, and the leaders that made it all happen.
By following a structured creative process as described above, you and your organization can achieve the following long lasting benefits: