There are many of us whose work is with or in the public sector who want and expect things to be better. Nevertheless, we sometimes find ourselves being sceptical about some solutions being put forward, and particularly the way in which they’re presented (such scepticism is often misinterpreted as a defence of the status quo – a point I’ve disabused here).
The word that sets off my own scepticism is “innovation”.
A series of recent posts on Arbitrary Constant have taken this starting point and brought together a series of reflections:
- Calling for a more honest approach to degrees of innovation in public service reform, and so about what it ultimately can deliver and achieve
- Developing and sharing initial thoughts on what a public service reform innovation scale might look like
- Applying that innovation scale to three examples: Twitter, Personal Budgets and alliance contracting.
This final post draws out an explicit view on degrees of innovation, how these relate to other forms of change in public service reform, and along what lines these degrees develop.
The diagram below captures this view.
In this diagram we see how “innovation” leads to “best practice” leads to “improvement” leads to what should be “standard” in public services. We further see that moving in any one of three directions can increase these degrees: increasing Scale, increasing how well Known something is, or transferring practice across Sectors.
As I’ve repeatedly said, very little can truly be thought of as “innovative”. Having a more honest appraisal of the extent to which something is “new”, in my view, leads to a better understanding of the extent to which this “thing” might achieve change. This also provides us with a better understanding of the practical approaches, tools and techniques that might be useful to take the innovation from its current “degree” to the next, higher “degree”.
Of course, in no way do I expect this contribution on innovation to gain any sort of currency. I hope, though, that by sharing it it becomes a useful framework within which people may reflect on the variety of means being used to achieve the ends to which most of us aspire: improved public services.