Innovation is the process of improving, adapting or developing a product, system or service to deliver better results and create value for people (IDEO, 2011). In government, innovation requires managers to identify and act upon new ideas and ways of providing services to citizens while maximising limited resources in their institutions. The primary goal of innovation in government services is to improve existing services, deliver new services or improve internal processes to meet needs of citizens, enhance organisational performance and attain regional or international leading and distinctive position. These forms of innovation can be explained as follows:
- Improving existing services: something the government is already doing, e.g., make information or services accessible to all citizens through online systems and e-government.
- Delivering new services: this form of innovation covers anything that the government do the first time in order meet their citizens’ needs. This may be a new service, process, policy or tool – opportunities here are endless.
- Optimising internal process and systems: in this form of innovation the government agency makes improvements internally by use of innovative ideas to increase efficiency, effectiveness and productivity, and as a result reduce cost and save time. Examples of these improvements may include simplifying a core business process, redesign customer service systems or develop a procedure that entirely new.
Citizens became more technically savvy, and as a result they demand government to solve problems, find innovative and effective solutions and deliver results, whether the problem is an economic downturn, security threat or a leak of an environmental contaminant. They are also expecting government to reliably, effectively and efficiently perform day-to-day tasks “crisis or no crisis” such as education, healthcare, police, delivering mails and social care services, with equitable access to these services for all. Although many governments work hard to provide such services in a way that meets their citizens’ needs, in today’s world, things change very quickly and people are able to recognize quality of adopted practices and their perception of quality changes rapidly – what is seen as high or good quality services today, might be considered bad services tomorrow. As a result, governments are continually forced to come up with innovative and creative ways of delivering services. The challenge is that in government institutions innovation is not a one-time project; it is rather a learned process that requires a shift in thinking, a disciplined approach and strong leadership.
IDEO and the Partnership for Public Service. 2011. Innovation in Government. IDEO, Palto Alto