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Slide Notes

This presentation was given at the 2014 Public Sector Innovation day on 8 July 2014. The organisers asked each presenter to provide a theme song. I chose Bob Seger's "In Your Time" because it encourages the listener to take bold action - to "feel the wind and set yourself the bolder course"

Public Sector Innovation Summit 8 July 2014

Published on Nov 18, 2015

My keynote address to the Summit on the theme of creating an innovation environment in the APS.



This presentation was given at the 2014 Public Sector Innovation day on 8 July 2014. The organisers asked each presenter to provide a theme song. I chose Bob Seger's "In Your Time" because it encourages the listener to take bold action - to "feel the wind and set yourself the bolder course"

Negotiating the Cretaceous Period

Before discussing the Cretaceous period, the last of the Age of the Dinosaurs, I wanted to touch on the other part of my theme - Lego. I loved Lego as a child, as did my kids (with some encouragement) and it reminds me strongly of childhood. Childhood is that time when we are all innovative, before education and work knocked off the creative edges of our personalities. When you see the Lego in this presentation, think of the innovation it encouraged and how we might recover it in our day to day work.
Photo by clry2


The Cretaceous period was the last of the Age of the Dinosaurs. The average temperature of 37 degrees supported a rich and fertile range of flora and fauna. Big was the order of the day. I see this as an analogy for what we are doing today. Big projects capture our imaginations - multi-year, multi-dollars, mega-scopes. Aimed at addressing the wicked problems that beset us, they are hard to do well and hard to get right. Like many of the big dinosaurs, they have lost agility. No longer able to adjust to the rapidly changing environment, they are doomed.
Photo by ntr23


The Cretaceous period ended 65 million years ago with an extinction event, wiping out the dinosaurs. Big projects, big ideas often suffer a similar fate, wiped out by circumstances beyond their control. The challenge is to build an environment that encourages sustainable innovation. New ideas are welcomed, nourished and the strong ones are helped to grow. My talk today is about creating such an environment in the APS.
Photo by Navicore

Riding the Raptor
Risk Management

To stay on top of the innovation dinosaur, we need to address the matters shown here. It's not an exhaustive list but dealing with these will get us off to a good start. I'll address each in turn.
Photo by Dunechaser


There are no rivers of gold in public sector funding. That doesn't mean resources can't be found for doing innovative things. Innovation projects don't have to be expensive. Often, an innovation can release funds if it creates efficiencies. Public sector managers should manage budgets closely from the beginning of the financial year to identify funds that can be repurposed for innovative approaches within the scope of set tasks.
Photo by eldeeem


Agile approaches to IT projects can equally be used for other innovative work. Innovative projects that deliver incremental but positive improvements in a continuous fashion will provide early evidence that the innovation is working, encouraging supporters and convincing unbelievers. The agile approach can also cope with changes in the environment because of user needs or other factors because the adaptions need only be relatively small.
Photo by Kitt Foo


Giving people permission to innovate requires a different mindset and, to some extent, an improved organisational structure. The temptation to micro-manage needs to be resisted by ensuring leaders have enough subordinates to ensure they can't just focus on a few people, reducing their freedom of action.

The leader needs to explain their intentions and provide resources rather than telling people how to do things. The outcome needs to be described, not the path to reach it. In this way, staff can decide their own way forward, exercising their initiative and being innovative.


  • Social Media
  • Mobility
  • The App Environment
  • Open Source
  • Cloud Computing
Today's technology environment offers a range of aids to innovation. Crowd sourcing ideas, working anywhere anytime, producing small incremental improvements, combined with the savings available through open source software and the efficiency and speed of deployment of cloud computing all create new opportunities to be innovative.
Photo by amarois


Leaders seeking to encourage innovation need to identify and reduce the barriers to innovation. These barriers can combine to exterminate new ideas almost before they are first thought of.

The 2013 State of the Service report found encouraging signs of a developing innovation environment.

Untitled Slide

The survey shows increasing recognition of the importance of innovation but still a reluctance to take risks.

Poor communication, lack of access to leaders, and reduced resources all combined to stifle innovation. Nevertheless, as in 2012, 49% of staff said there had been an innovation in their work place in the last 12 months. We can build on this.


A good risk management framework, properly applied is crucial to encouraging innovation. Analysis of risks must take a realistic view of the likelihood and consequence of risk. Then, an appropriate management response must be selected. Less management is required for lower risks.
Photo by Ѕolo


All too often, staff feel their good ideas are encouraged and then quashed in implementation. Not being prepared for innovation can also be a problem. Having a good idea in the shower, dumping it on your boss' desk before she's had a morning coffee and then bemoaning the lack of action isn't innovation.

Good ideas need to nurtured by their owners before being released. Like puppies, they need to be given a start before they are released to their prospective new owners.

Leaders burnt by being handed a half thought through idea will be reluctant to try again.
Photo by Me2 (Me Too)


Innovation of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from this earth. In forming a more perfect union of ideas and implementation, committed leadership is the deal breaker. Without a leader setting direction and being exemplary, innovation won't stand a chance.

Feel the wind and set yourself the bolder course!
Photo by julochka