Blogging Series: 10 Ways Open Innovation Can Transform Your Agency (Week 2)

Last week, I introduced what open innovation was and how it could help identify problems. There were some very good comments about the multiple ways an open innovation portal could be configured to do identify problems in a multitude of settings (including paying a parking ticket); however, this is only the first part of the process. Now, it’s time for Week 2, and the second way open innovation can transform your agency is by…Building Solutions.

The notion of ‘Building Solutions’ implies the ability to take the identified problems, build conceptual ideas around them and grow them into something more actionable. One of the main challenges in doing so involves which process is used to manage the ideas.


Let’s say a citizen has an idea or suggestion for your agency? What happens to it using the current process?

Current Process: In most cases,when an idea or suggestion is received, it’s most likely forwarded to a superior for their consideration. If the superior likes the idea, it’s probably assigned to an employee to research in their free-time; only to fall victim to the already overwhelming day-to-day duties of the employee. Now, if the employee finds the time to research the idea, then it’s time to consider how to build the idea to the point of implementation. In this example, the burden of the entire process falls on the employee or employees of a given agency.

Here’s an overview of the current process:

Now how would this same idea be processed using open innovation as a model?

Open Innovation Process: The idea or suggestion would first be submitted on a dedicated portal or channel for ideas. The idea would then be vetted by the community (employees or citizens), also giving other members an opportunity to add-on to the idea. Next, the idea must be considered by the department it pertains to and either implemented, aborted (with a transparent reason why) or sent back to an earlier stage for clarification. In this example, the burden of the entire process is distributed and shared by the community, which takes the idea from concept to solution.

Here’s an overview of the open innovation model:

How does it help?

Open innovation distributes the work it requires to build a solution out of an idea. Instead of only employees being tasked with idea development; you can distribute the workload to citizens and other employees to be active participants in the process. In the coming weeks, I’ll discuss more about the behavior sciences that can be leveraged to motivate and reward participation in the process.

What do you think? What happens to incoming ideas in your agency?

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply


I congratulate you on your vision based on solid practical experience. It confirms my thoughts that true innovation is not the reserve of large organisations. We should all be involved and open innovation provides a proven platform. This series will help in this endeavour.
With our ever decreasing resources (at the local/municipality level) we do need to be more innovative and the key innovation concept introduced already by you (in this series) is getting our communities (citizens, stakeholders) involved. They are a significant, powerful, knowledgeable resource that should be tapped and used (for their ultimate benefit). I encourage you to keep this as a key theme of your series so that this important message “hits home”.
Thanks for the insights and keep them coming.


I have particularly enjoyed your two posts. I have been expecting more (from your series of 10).
Have I missed your subsequent posts or are they still coming. I am keen to learn from your experience, and pass this onto others.

Shellee O'Brien

This opportunity to add-on to an idea is critical. I think the real potential of the technologies we now have to leverage is this ability for citizens to confront, evaluate and build on one another’s ideas. So much of the gov 2.0 discussion gets locked into agencies communicating to citizens or vice versa. I’m pretty confident innovation is nearly always lost in those schemes. We’re using new tools to do old business rather than re-thinking how to do business. This really is a good idea for a series. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

Janice van Reyk

Conceptually a great framework. In pactice managing citizens expectations and not just doing the populists ideas will be a critical issue.

Darron Passlow


I think the model described (“open innovation”) covers your concerns by getting the community involved and keeping them involved through the final stage (“implementation”). This way if a “popular” solution gets implemented (it is popular with the community) and they get what they want.

I would take this model a little further and as part of the “community engagement”, I would encourage the community to take on the “implementation” of a lot more solutions that benefit them (particularly where they are capable). I feel we (government) take on far too many issues/problems that would be better solved by our communities. This allows government to focus on the really hard and important issues.

Let us apply “Open Innovation Community Engagement”. Gov2.0 and Open Gov demands this of us.