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I am just having a read of 'Innovation - The Path of Embracing Change to Create Value - 4th Innovation Best Practise and Future Challenges Report' which landed in my e-mail box yesterday. Absolutely fascinating read right from the start. It consists of a collection of findings from 45 interviews with 40 companies across the world (Australia, UK, Denmark, South Africa, etc) which has been pulled together by Dr Bettina Von Stamm and funded by the Innovation Leadership Forum. Bettina gives some 'upfront observations' and then organises the findings into categories: Company Vision and Strategy, Company Culture and Industry Context.
Some food for thought:

- There is a gap between those who 'get innovation' and those who’ do not’ keeps widening.

- Innovation mindsets is not finding people who constantly come up with breakthrough ideas but one that is open to change, likes to challenge and be challenged, is focused on creating value and very importantly, appreciates diversity in all its different guises.

- Those who buy into the rationale of innovation but not the 'emotional' consequences of it continue to focus on processes and structures rather than turning towards addressing behaviours and cultures.

- When aiming to create a more innovative organisation using the word 'innovation' can be one of the obstacles!

- Create realities - there is a great difference between 'telling' and 'showing', using prototypes and other ways to make an idea or concept as real as possible This is very true - Sidekick Studios came down to our offices to meet us last week and we wouldn't have been able to understand the complete awesomeness of their Voicebox writing robot!

- Silos, be they functional or between business units, remain a frequently mentioned barrier to more successful innovation. I also found this in my Business Plan Research Report, with many of the units and teams within Kent County Council stating that they would like to break down the 'silo mentality' that exists within the organisation, and will work on this through 2010/11

- A focus on behaviours - one of the participants stated that during project review meetings, they do not start with budgets or project plans, they focus on relationships, looking at how well they work together.

- Collaboration with external parties seems easier than collaboration within the business boundaries.

- Innovation needs to be clear and transparent, otherwise people will withdraw.

- Addressing a challenge or opportunity through different lenses - 'when the conversation moved onto the fact that people tend to stick too closely to Horizon 1 it occurred to me that the three horizons could also be used to develop more impactful concepts and ideas At our event 'Transformed By You On Campus', when coming up with ideas to tackle their challenges - such as Future Digital Online Services and Graduate Retention in Kent - they were encouraged to see the challenge through the ideas of a child, Google, Richard Branson and a library assistant.

- In one of the participating organisations members were given some 'spare time' to work on their own ideas.

-Engaging others in innovation is a combination of credibility, personality and attitude.

- 'The responsibility of selling is ours' - Successfully 'selling' innovation is about understanding others, it is about talking to people in their language.

- Our Catalogue of Innovations was also featured in the report, which can be found here, go have a look!

'When we started on our innovation journey we began by making a catalogue of all the innovations that had been happening all over the organisation but no one had really noticed. Rather than having an ideas competition or starting a suggestion box we went around the organisation to talk to people. We did not ask ‘what innovations have you made recently’ but asked them where they had changed or improved things, developed new offerings, that kind of thing. We got many things the individuals involved would not have classified as innovation, in fact, we got 40 great examples. This made people realise how much innovation was actually going on and it gave then confidence.'

- Kirsty Russell

Top picture: Shows a wooden path on a beach with extends to the sea with a blue sky and yellow sunset in the background with thanks to stuck_in_customs for publishing on Flickr under a Creative Commons license some rights reserved.

Bottom picture - Shows students at our event 'Transformed By You on Campus' sitting around a desk with post it notes looking at a paper about Google, with thanks to Paul Sinnock at University of Kent for taking and publishing the pictures.



"We have lots of opportunities to come together and people are excited to share and collaborate, but nothing ever “happens.” 

A provocative remark by Amy Sample Ward on the many events taking place across the innovation sector. This prompted me to try and benchmark a series of events we've been hosting called Transformed by You with a website documenting the methods that this sector is using - Social Innovator
Our model does use platforms for engaging citizens, idea generation and deliberation and it helps facilitate participation. Is it trying to do much at once? Or should it focus on a particular pinchpoint in the innovation process that public services really struggle at? And how much can we expect in a day from people's passion and energy?


How can we tackle these tensions?

Innovation often depends on the right kinds of difference. That’s why we invited different groups of people to Transformed by You. People who are involved in formal groups or programmes and those who are more involved in informal groups and activities, we need to explore the difference in the nature of support required, the capacity constraints more informal groups face and the time required to engage them after the event..

One question we can also ask ourselves is, do we aim to influence a change in our own organisations to reflect this or do we instead provide greater support for groups to develop these digital services themselves as community applications?

Equally, how can staff themselves be more involved in this process?

We know we need to make better use of the limited resources available – time, technology, knowledge, money and of course our most important asset, staff themselves. But before that we need to identify and develop people’s motivations, openness to ideas and solving problems. Then we can look at how we incentivise and reward those innovative behaviours, particularly their confidence and resilience in this difficult climate.

By valuing staff not just for their expertise as “critical friends” to local innovators but their capacity for being open to new ways of engaging people and solving problems to areas they are responsible for.

We often focus on systems to manage innovations and trying to define people as innovators. However, the Everyday Innovation report shows that the best predictors of getting staff to generate ideas were induction programmes that emphasise innovation, work time devoted to developing new ideas and team incentives. Steph Gray goes further and lets us into a few secrets on how to be an everyday innovator (see how many you already do and you'll see you're probably innovating too!). Something I've found to work well is when you "connect things together in a new way".

Using challenge-based activities could then help acknowledge and tackle the tension between the potential increase in competition between staff in a difficult climate and the need to empower them to be able to be more willing to combine their efforts.

Hosting these activities over very short spaces of time, will also recognise that there may be less time allocated to staff to innovate but they can still have more freedom and opportunities to innovate.

How can we tackle these tensions?

What next?

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Digging For The Future

I remember Charlie Leadbeater when I was at Demos. You'd hear he'd be making a visit sometime soon on the way back from his trips around the world – discovering and documenting innovation in the places other people didn't go to – from the slums to the boardrooms. He hasn't stopped doing that and this time he travels back in time and takes us to the 17th century with his new pamphlet “Digging for the Future” for the Young Foundation.

Although it sounds more like the motto behind a 1950s food growing programme, it is actually about how we can learn from the Diggers, the long lost cousin of the more famous Levellers. How they faced a similar depth of crisis, how they called for a fundamental transformation to the way we organise themselves, and how innovation and new technologies played a role...even back then.

What struck me more than anything else in the comparison is “the chasm between our need to have a sense of purpose and our incapacity to muster the collective commitment to do so”. Indeed, the same could be said of innovation. Many organisations profess the need for being more innovative, yet fall short of letting their staff develop new ideas, not so much because they might improve things but rather they might risk disrupting “the way it’s done around here”.

Some people believe that those who are innovative are just lucky to be in the right place at the right time, because they've not just been allowed but empowered to change the culture they work in by their next line of management. This is why often it is only really those who benefit in the rewards of innovation who really believe in it. Others might want to but either do not have the freedom to or may not believe in it because their organisations don't practice what they preach. But this can become a circular argument - if everyone waited for the perfect place and time to start making their new ideas happen, then we’d still be waiting for innovation.

So let's turn instead to the core tenet to the Digger's plan; “groups would plant and tend crops, and feed and sustain themselves, by taking unused land into common ownership to boost food production and provide employment”.

What unused assets could public services hand over to communities to boost production? And how could technology play a role? How could councils and communities work co-creatively?

Leadbeater describes how collaborative innovation was just as much at the heart of the debate in the 17th century as it is now:

“The Levellers wanted to raise food production through mutual ownership of underused land that would allow new technologies like manuring to take hold. One of the key issues for our generation is how best to share socially useful knowledge, especially through digital technologies and the web.”

In fact, why not start thinking about these unused assets like an allotment? There is a byelaw where groups of people can demand the right to a plot of land if they can justify it will be used to produce food.

In an allotment like with ideas, the first thing you have to do is plant seeds. But should we carry on the analogy and argue that you need to wait for the right conditions to plant your idea – in the good times when everyone is up for a brainstorm or is it when there is a frosty crisis like we're in at the moment that new ideas are most in need?

Ultimately what's most important is to make sure your seeds turn into fruit or veg is to nurture them – to water them regularly, place them in the sun and protect them when the frost comes. The soil too needs to be nourished even after the crops have been dug up so next year they can have a fertile ground to grow. Just like a juicy tomato, you need to do the same with ideas. But to return to the initial argument of Digging for the Future in the context of organisational culture, you also need to do the same with staff if they are to be confident and empowered to innovate.

What have we forgotten with this analogy? What's unique with allotments is that they're communal – people join one over a shared passion and come back regularly to gossip about how their crops are growing, share tips for newcomers and sometimes even compete for prizes, like who grows the biggest marrow. How can we encourage this within organisations and maybe even more importantly between councils and communities, so that local authorities can act more like “gardeners” than “umpires”?

- Noel Hatch

Picture: Four silhouettes digging on a hill with a sunset behind them, with thanks to Wessex_Archaeology on Flickr for publishing under a Creative Comms license with some rights reserved.

What next?

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Are You Experienced?
Who said all pop-ups need to be blocked?
All consuming Google?
Digging For The FutureSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Call of duty

An idea developed at Transformed by You
What is the problem?

Councils aren’t aware of street based problems in real time and the public are not reporting these problems. How do you solve this by co producing services with the public?

Who is this for?

People who need to report problems in their neighbourhood.

How would the idea work?

It would be a gaming version of ‘Fix my Street’ where you can report faults and gain points. It would be mobile based with three functions - a report strand, an update strand and a community/social gaming strand.

The community would be able to rate how ‘urgent’ the problem is and prioritise where your report goes in the queue. Catherine sums it up here

“We want to develop a mobile app which combines reporting of issues your physical community (broken lights / potholes / unkempt land etc etc) with a gaming approach. We thought this had strong elements of co-production as well as being channel authentic – and so we created “Call of Duty” – which will be flying of the shelves at Christmas….. “

“Why? We could have just designed a mobile app for street scene reporting – a kind of phone based ‘fixmystreet’ – and I know that other councils are thinking about just that (for example Lewisham iphone app ) and its a really good thing to do. But we thought that adding a gaming element added in two additional benefits:

  • It would be more fun – when did the idea of doing something useful become unfun anyway?
  • It could be used to link people in the area together – using the gaming community to build local community

The game itself should be fairly simple – you get points for:
  • reporting an issue (5 points)
  • rating an issue (1 point)
  • doing something about an issue (10 points)
(points clearly indicative at this stage – currency to be established!)

We assumed that the app would know where/when you were reporting something (probably with a photo) and that you would just be asked to firstly suggest an outcome – do you want it fixed by the council or do you think the community should deal with it for example – and then prioritise the issue by being shown a list of current issues and being asked to place it in the right place in the queue. We felt that this moved the user passed just complaining and gave them some sense of the whole picture. Other users could then ‘rate’ that prioritisation. You would be able to track the status of your issues, as well as getting updates on things that have been dealt with in your area (you might see some before and after pictures for example)…..btw – there is clearly a whole back office integration piece to be done here but we decided not to worry about that…..again – it was a Saturday

The gaming element would contribute a leader board where you could see who else has been active and where you relate to them – you could also have viral options so that you could share issues with your community to get support for your prioritisation. At this point I started getting drawn into a whole top trumps thing where you got rated for the types of things you report, how you fix them etc etc….

The final element was some way of linking game currency – points – to some kind of real world rewards – for example cheap entrance to a swimming pool. We felt that this would provide additional motivation and acknowledge the fact that you are ‘working’ for your community. We also wanted to make it possible to donate your game currency to local charities etc so that they could benefit.

This is not an unachievable idea – as long as you can remain committed to the idea that it does actually have to be fun and to engage with some actual game designers rather than the poor folks who will have to make it work with the back office systems. Its strengths are, I believe, in the fact that it tries to use the channel in a ‘native’ way without actually compromising on the social goals of the project. The first step to doing this would be to do some focus group work around establishing motivations and looking at what the game currency would need to look like.”

What is needed to make this idea successful?

“What can be achieved when you actually think appropriately for a channel and when you don’t get constrained with what is currently possible? What happens when you accept the fact that you probably won’t get anything built for at least a year – so why not look that far ahead in terms of the technology? And what happens when you think that actually it should be fun to do stuff for and with your community – and look at building something to do that?
Gaming is a growth area for online – as is augmented reality – and both of these come together in this idea. So – are you intrigued or was this just a way to pass a rainy saturday?”
Who was involved in the group?

What can be done to make the idea successful?

Build on the day by carrying out further research to help define business cases for projects

Work with the informal social economy such as mobs and mutual support services to embed the prototypes into the community

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