US govt innovation leader comes to Hobart and Canberra

By Stephen Easton

October 12, 2015

One of the United States government’s principal innovation leaders is in Australia to share her thoughts on human-centred design and rapid prototyping with local public servants.

Stephanie Wade, director of the US Office of Personnel Management’s Innovation Lab, is the drawcard speaker for public sector innovation discussions at the Hobart Town Hall tomorrow and in Canberra next Tuesday, October 20.

The Lab@OPM, as the OPM Innovation Lab is branded, was created in a converted underground storage space in Washington to apply the human-centred design ethos to a range of government agencies and “translate the creativity of their employees into innovative action”, according to OPM director Katherine Archuleta.

Stephanie Wade
Stephanie Wade

Wade’s work involves “using empathy to uncover and better understand complex problems and user interaction experiences, rigorous and insightful analysis to synthesize and make sense of the data and creativity to quickly develop and implement innovative solutions,” she writes on her LinkedIn profile. She also describes herself as a painter, photographer, singer, dancer and Muay Thai kickboxing instructor elsewhere online.

One of her team’s most recent jobs was to redesign the US governments online jobs portal through the same type of rapid, iterative development process the Digital Transformation Office is advocating inside the Australian government.

Just as the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is leading on simpler recruitment procedures here, the aim of the project is to make the much-maligned much simpler for prospective applicants to navigate.

“Our approach is different in the sense that we actually start with understanding the applicants, the people who are using this tool the most, and understanding what their perspective is like, their emotional needs, and their challenges with the system are,” Wade said at a conference in May. “Before they even get to the federal government, we want to understand who they are as people.”

Both events are hosted by the Public Sector Innovation Network, which is run out of the federal Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. The Canberra event next Tuesday has more focus on Wade’s work with the jobs website, which should come to fruition soon, and is being jointly hosted by the Canberra Innovation Network.

Tomorrow’s forum in Hobart is the first in a series of organised “public sector innovation conversations” and is capped to 20 places. Wade will lead a discussion about what kinds of public sector innovation might work best in Tasmania, guided by three questions:

  • What approaches are applicable to public sector innovation?
  • What are the challenges in applying these approaches in Tasmania?
  • What opportunities are there for future innovation?

The Public Sector Innovation Network says the Hobart event is part of a wider effort by the Canberra-centric group to involve more public servants from outside the capital, and follows the establishment of a state chapter co-ordinators group in July. According to the PSIN website:

“In line with the establishment of this group, a small group of interested Tasmanians have come together to discuss what value the PSIN could provide in this state, leading to the following draft purpose statement:

“The purpose of the PSIN (Tas) is to support an ecosystem in Tasmania in which public sector innovation can flourish. It will strive to enable the right conversations between the right people at the right time.”

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