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Strategies for Open Innovation: Devolved Innovation

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One of the many great things about working in the innovation sector is that we get to challenge many aspects of traditional working practices every day. Building awareness and understanding of open innovation as a concept and demonstrating the potential benefits from adopting an open innovation strategy is one great example of market leading change.

Open innovation as a practice implicitly expands well beyond the remit of a single team or part of a business or institution. It can feel very scary for organisations that are just setting out on the journey. As we have discussed many times over in previous articles it not only transcends role and function, but also relies on the supporting culture and flattening of hierarchies to deliver success.

In our work within local government we have been lucky to be part of a growing sentiment that is seeing the traditional command and control structures starting to move to more devolved and trust based models of hierarchy and working. In this post we will take a close look at the shift to a more devolved approach to innovation and consider this within the very traditionally hierarchical world of UK local authorities, exploring how this is helping to deliver benefits and drive value during times of severe resource and budget constraints.

Our Local Authority clients are under huge pressure. The biggest round of cuts since 2008 is just kicking in and front line services are under scrutiny. All hands to the pump won’t address the issues this time around as resources are over-stretched and many of the old ways of working do not allow for new approaches to working. The good news from an open innovation perspective at least, is that at these challenging times a significant number of local authorities are realising the potential of adopting a more open approach to employee engagement around the complex challenges they are facing.

From Chief Executive level down we are seeing engagement across Councils to build open communities where everyone from the specific council is able to join specific challenges and propose their ideas in an open and collaborative forum. At times of huge complexity and change this is enabling, for the first time, for the traditional command and control hierarchies to be challenged and in their place be installed far flatter engagement structures. By creating communities with a specific focus, with a clear process and that are open to a very clearly defined community, people across the organisation may be empowered to contribute their content and ideas, to have a voice, and help drive valuable outcomes. As one of our clients put it, “for the first time we have people from multiple different departments exchanging ideas in a truly open fashion and developing outcomes.”

The value is clear. Having thousands of empowered, smart, engaged people working on complex challenges drives results and outcomes far beyond the most obvious benefit of the outcome itself. It is great to see Local Authorities embracing innovation and bold approaches to working and all those who have will, I am sure, be evangelists for the approaches they have taken.

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