Public servants to go on blind coffee dates for innovation

By David Donaldson

Tuesday July 11, 2017

Victorian public servants will have the opportunity to be randomly matched with others for coffee dates, as part of the government’s plan to foster links across silos and bolster innovation, under its new Public Sector Innovation Strategy.

Victorian public servants will have the opportunity to be randomly matched with others for coffee dates, as part of the government’s plan to foster links across silos and bolster innovation.

That is just one of many initiatives planned by Victoria in its new Public Sector Innovation Strategy, released on Tuesday.The plan acknowledges that plenty of innovative thinking is already happening, so the best way to drive further ideas is to connect people better and provide tools and case studies so they can learn from one another.

Six themes repeatedly came up in conversations around innovation in the public service, says the document:

  1. Leaders who enable and reward — too often new ideas are stifled by leaders who don’t support them;
  2. Employees who feel confident and supported;
  3. Learning well — pockets of innovation exist, and stronger efforts to learn and develop from them will help;
  4. Sharing with each other;
  5. Partnering with the community and other organisations;
  6. Delivering value — don’t innovate on random things. Focus on what makes a difference.

“This strategy helps to find, encourage and support change that adds value across the public sector. We need to unlock good intent and talent, share examples and experiences, and learn from each other,” says Chris Eccles, secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

“At our best, we all contribute our different skills and roles to generate more public value, shaped by the common purpose of creating a better society.”

To kick off progress, the government has outlined a series of actions it will undertake:

  • A reverse mentoring plan to help executives learn from more junior staff. Due September 2017.
  • Build on a current departmental trial that builds innovation into executive performance development plans. December 2017.
  • Establish a high-profile event to recognise and reward practical innovation across government. March 2018.
  • A practical innovation bank, to provide a common digital space for cross-government sharing of practical resources (case studies, contacts, templates, guides, lessons learned and so on). December 2017.
  • Ideas challenge toolkit to provide guidance on how to run an ideas challenge. December 2017.
  • Learning lab trial, which will provide an incubator environment for cross-government use on a project by project basis. March 2018.
  • VPS Academy, a new peer to peer learning project, will go through two more pilots to build the case for scaling up. July and December 2017.
  • Work with learning and development leaders across government to integrate innovation skills into their existing professional L&D programs. Ongoing.
  • Trial a program that promotes exchanges between government and the private or community sectors. December 2017.
  • Re-launch the existing innovation network (Victorian Public Sector Continuous Improvement and Innovation Network — VPSCIIN) to be aligned with the priorities of the strategy. September 2017.
  • Trial an initiative that randomly matches people who want to meet others across the public sector for coffee dates, to make new connections and explore different perspectives. September 2017.
  • Collect and share stories of practical innovation from across the VPS, to inspire and learn for future innovation. September 2017.
  • Provider directory — Trial development of specialist directories for the VPS to access a broader view of potential service providers. September 2017.
  • Develop a standard cross-government contract for software development that enables a more iterative and flexible approach. December 2017.
  • Trial a collaborative procurement approach to procure a solution to a given challenge with the market. December 2017.
  • Reporting progress — provide quarterly reports on progress against strategy, including what’s working, lessons learned and new initiatives across government. Ongoing.
  • Build inter-jurisdictional links — find new opportunities and build relationships across jurisdictions domestically and internationally. Ongoing.

A review will look at the implementation of the strategy in June 2018 to ensure it’s on track to see what can be improved.

The government is keen for people to get involved. “The actions we propose need your input and participation to make sure what develops is useful and sustained. Please get in touch if you would like to tell us your story, sign up for VPS coffee dates or volunteer to trial any of the other initiatives,” says the strategy.

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