I rediscover this short paper by Geoff Mulgan about innovation in government every now and again. It’s packed with insight and this bit in particular got me thinking:
Over the last 30 years, governments have learned a lot about how to be more efficient, and about how to take customers more seriously. But now they need to learn a new set of skills: how to innovate and serve the public, not only by being competent in the present, but also by being ready for the future.
So why is the “long term” so hard to manage? Here are three ideas and a quote from President Kennedy to show us what leading for the long term really looks like.
Couldn’t resist posting this trailer for a documentary about American sign painters. They’ve just about survived the arrival in the 1970′s of the technology that’s made it cheap and easy for anyone to print massive ugly signs ever since. Pleased they have. I like the idea of the average English high street being transformed by swapping bland shop hoardings with this sort of thing. In fact – where did design figure in the Portas Review?
We should insist on this on more of this sort of thing: planning done right – studiously, competitively, explicitly. And note:
As policy cycles continue to accelerate and policy timelines are shortened, it is worth remembering that a policy which most textbooks now summarize in two sentences took six years to mature and forty more to implement.
Hot on the heels of the College of Policing being named as the UK’s “what works” centre for crime reduction, this week saw the publication of new guidance on the handling of missing persons reports.
Having been tested through a formal pilot with three forces, the guidance is a practical example of a systematic approach to exploring which interventions work, and then using this insight to reform services. But it also highlights three challenges linked to the “what works” agenda and to wider police reform.
First, it highlights the need to scale-up the level of R&D capacity that’s focussed on policing. A key enabler for this will be forces’ success in selecting and then championing the operational challenges they need the research community to treat as priorities.
Second, ideas need to be cultivated before they can be evaluated. For example, this week’s missing persons case shows how local initiative responding to a front-line problem and was grown successfully into a national response. There are plenty of practical methods to help organisations develop ideas from staff, users, data, suppliers and elsewhere. There’s never been a better time to put these into practice.
Thirdly, all organisations face the famous ‘innovators dilemma’. That is, it’s easier to make incremental improvements that address today’s priorities than it is transform services to meet the bigger challenges of tomorrow. HMIC have highlighted the example of the Ambulance Service where, once, its employees played a role similar to specialist taxi drivers. Today, exceptionally trained paramedics arrive using a range of platforms, equipped with effective technology linked to hospitals to assist diagnosis. By taking the hospital to the street, fewer (but more qualified staff) deliver a preventive approach that has lowered demand and improved outcomes.
So as momentum builds behind the ‘what works’ agenda, so too does the importance of a radical approach to innovation.