Creating Innovators in the Public Sector

The public sector has been very dedicated to keeping up with the world’s social changes. New tools, methods and technologies have been implemented and acquired to help governments innovate. Also, it is undeniable that public sector innovation is an international trend and many countries are embodying the theme in their agendas.

But, for this scenario to perpetuate, how should public agents proceed? It is necessary to develop a new set of skills and competencies, otherwise, we will kill innovation before it is even born. We can not let this opportunity to transform the public sector slip through our hands. That said, more than innovating, we need to create innovators in the public sector.

Mindsets barring innovators in the public sector

There are many possible paths to follow for innovation to be significant. Each public servant should seek the one which makes more sense to the institution’s reality and maturity to innovate. One of the key elements is to be authentic in the application of new tools and methods for the public sector. Although the references are very important, adaptations from the private world – or the famous ”copy and paste” – have limits in the public world.

But, no matter what path is chosen, what we need is an innovative and genuine mindset. Changes in culture tend to generate powerful outcomes in the long term. And for that, some vices of mindset and behaviors should be avoided.

1. No sense of purpose

Any innovator in the public sector must always be connected with the purpose of serving and attentive to the final delivery of services. Having a greater purpose than yourself can be a determining factor for powerful change and does not make innovation an empty act.

The distancing of purpose can destroy the meaning of innovation. The real benefits of the initiatives end up being individualized for career progression or individual projections that do not meet the needs of the citizen and are far from solving real problems.

2. Ego battle

Public institutions may be the most hierarchical and vertical in their organization. That alone should not be a problem, but diplomas, positions and degrees must be seen with skepticism when it comes to innovation in the public sector.

We need an open and inclusive mindset that shifts from the traditional patterns of public work. Presumption, arrogance and ego battles repel creativity and collaboration and are barriers for innovators in the public sector.

3. Lack of resources

“We have no resources to innovate” is a common argument constantly heard by public servants. But here we face some flaws.

Innovation is a resource and the reality is undeniable that public institutions need to innovate with an internal and external perspective. When we discover the power to innovate, we must constantly reflect and understand the purpose of doing things differently.

If government innovation is fundamental to solving complex problems, it must be understood that it serves as a means to achieve these real solutions. Therefore, the excuses of some public servants regarding resource shortages fall to the ground when we generate innovators in the public sector.

When we create engaged innovators in the public sector, there is the possibility that they themselves can generate the conditions and environments for innovation to take place. The chicken and egg dilemma, or in this case innovator and innovation, becomes evident when put into perspective and context.

When we abandon traditional and addicted mindsets, we foster a more effective narrative that favors the innovator, it is he who comes before innovation. More than acknowledging their innovations, you have to recognize the innovators.

Ana Camerano is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.

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