Can private sector learn from public sector about innovation and change?





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Innovation has become the new "buzz word" and desired state for organisations in both the private and the public sector. The term "innovation" has been used and, sometimes, overused by a lot of people and organisations. Common to all implicit or explicit definitions is the claim that although "invention" refers to the generation of new ideas, "innovation" is "...the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value (however defined) or for which customers will pay". OECD states that "...the capability to innovate and to bring innovation successfully to market will be a crucial determinant of the global competitiveness of organisations and nations over the coming decades...".

However, innovation in the public sector is less about new products and more about improving efficiency and quality of outcomes. Innovation can therefore not only be linked to technological innovation leading to "Product Innovation", but it can involve internal organisational processes and structures leading for example to new approaches to client services - "Client service innovation" - or new approaches to reaching clients - "Marketing Innovation" - or new methods for transforming information - "Information Innovation" - and so on.

The Publin report D20 introduces the concept of innovation in the public sector as a "...deliberate change (in behaviour) with a specific objective in mind Innovation and change share a common DNA and in the public sector innovation and change are linked to improvements and novelty in systems, processes and products that add value to the public by allowing them to be more efficient and effective. In other words, innovation in public sector organisations involves the successful implementation of change.

So what can the private sector learn from the experiences of the public sector...

...about the challenge of changing organisational structures, processes and behaviours?

Innovation examples in the public sector include: the use of new technology; the drive towards public-centric processes with the view to deliver simpler services and greater convenience; or the empowerment of staff and the public to better engage and participate in the design and implementation of new policies / services. To enable all these innovations to be successfully delivered in the public sector organisations we need effective change management methodologies and approaches.

Many of the barriers to innovation are common to both the private and public sectors; resistance to change, risk adverse cultures; centralised structures, internal politics, etc.

Some of the lessons learnt from the public sector innovations are:

  1. Promote collaboration and collaborative working cultures within and across divisions and departments by identifying clear accountabilities and mapping (sometimes even creating) the cross-organisational interdependencies that need to work in order for the desired outcomes to be achieved
  2. Beware that 'fear of failure' stifles innovation and change in organisations: in fact successful change organisations tolerate failure as part of learning, and growing change capability
  3. Articulate an all-encompassing vision of what the change initiative will accomplish and align all stakeholders behind the vision
  4. Capture all the expected benefits and the changes in the organisation that will realise the benefits and then establish the right metrics to monitor and track benefit realisation following the end of the change initiative
  5. Smart individual and group incentives are needed to instil the desired culture. The most successful of these are about recognition of efforts and achievements, rather than financial reward.
  6. Finally, be careful what you measure and what you reward, as this it will strongly influence behaviours, sometimes in unintended ways.

CITI, over the last 25 years, has developed and practiced robust and effective change methodologies and tools that enable change initiatives to be delivered successfully.

One of these models is the Change Diamond that assists organisations to view change through its different and inter-related viewpoints generating robust projects, programmes, and portfolios designed to bring the expected benefits into reality.

The Change Diamond takes a holistic view of the change journeys that organisations initiate; it is relevant not only for changes that involve organisational systems, processes and structures (the "hard" aspect of change), but also the changes that are needed in behaviours and organisation culture (the "soft" aspects of change) to enable change to be successfully embedded and realised.

CITI has supported many clients, from public and private sector markets, to achieve maximum value from their change initiatives and investment designed to bring innovations into the market place or introduce major technological change to enhance value to customers. It has done so by developing their programme, project, and change management communities.

If you would like to learn more about how CITI Limited could help you as partners to plan, deliver and sustain beneficial change, then please feel free to contact Richard Bateman on 01908 283600, email

Bakr Zade

Bakr Zade

I enjoy working with teams in organisations to achieve 'Integrated Business Excellence', through seizing opportunities that design thinking, social intelligence and digital disruption bring to organisations and their stakeholders
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