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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Innovation flourishes when people are empowered, researchers say

The key to delivering a more innovative approach to service delivery is unlocking the potential of social capital within local services.

And this will require a new generation of public leaders who foster climates of trust, collaboration and confidence. That's according to the second report in a series of CIPD research on innovation, written in collaboration with researchers at the University of Bath.

Based on detailed case studies of three local authorities across England, the researchers found that innovation flourishes when people are empowered to work collaboratively, with service users and across organisational boundaries, to engage in problem solving. In this way, the councils have been able to mobilise existing knowledge and skills to generate creative new solutions to the increasing demands placed upon them.

According to the research, the crucial catalyst for these new ways of working is the appointment of senior teams who demonstrate new styles of leadership. More open leadership behaviours help to create climates of trust and self-belief, giving staff at all levels the confidence to explore both incremental and radical ways of changing the way they work. What's more, public sector and L&D teams must be prepared to energise the organisation by designing change programmes that instil a sense of pride and possibility into the workforce, as well as leading the way by innovating service delivery too. 

The research also identified seven key barriers that often thwart innovation in the public sector:

• Siloed working

• Evaluation systems, which are not designed to support innovation

• Public service users rarely being invited to engage in the innovation process

• "A fetish for new shiny stuff" results in inappropriate allocation of scarce resources

• A lack of disciplined systems of innovation

• A narrow focus on financial measures of value

• Complexity caused by being required to meet the demands of too many 'masters'.

John McGurk, learning and development adviser at the CIPD, said: "In today's challenging local authority landscape, innovation really is the key to making an impact.  Even though a high proportion of what we call 'cautious innovators' are found in local government, our case studies provide excellent examples of authorities who are firmly embracing innovation. They know that engaging everyone, from employees to customers and suppliers in the innovation effort will pay dividends in service delivery and efficiency."

The findings of the full series of research insights will be explored at HRD, the CIPD's annual learning and development conference and exhibition, when the final report will be published. John McGurk will be joined by CIPD CEO Peter Cheese, Robert Tinlin, CEO at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, and Tim Pointer, head of HR and Pentland Brands, to discuss the integral role of L&D in ensuring continued innovation within organisations. For more information, visit www.cipd.co.uk/hrdinnovation 


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