Governments – these bureaucratic, inefficient organisations we all know – are more and more willing to reinvent themselves and their way of working. Startups can be a great inspiration source for this. Governments can adapt a startup mentality both from within via “intrapreneurship” or from the outside by buying from startups.
Innovation from within the public sector
In the past it was always preached that “governments should work more like the private sector”. But looking to startups for inspiration is different than this platitudinous notion. The old model typically compared large public sector institutions to large private sector organisations. Increasing operational efficiency used to be the main conclusion. But this is not what will foster innovation. That’s why an increasing number of organisations – both private and public – are looking into “intrapreneurship” to become truly innovative.
Public intrapreneurship is the act of behaving like an entrepreneur within a government in a process of assertive risk-taking.
These three key precepts need to be kept in mind when fostering public sector innovation:
Design working processes that increase the speed of execution and avoid red tape. Governments are characterised by heavy-weight regulatory regimes and their resistance to change.
Startups, on the other hand, are guided by the “lean” way of working.
The Lean Startup preaches a 3-step that focuses on iteration: building products and services, measuring the performance and learning from it. The UK Government Digital Service (GDS) is a great example of a government organisation which implemented an agile way of working.
Create competitions and challenges which seek to achieve bold goals.
Worldwide, hackathons are being organised in order to innovate the way governments are working. The city of Ghent in Belgium created the “ Apps4Ghent ” challenge to develop applications which enhance the quality of life in Ghent.
Co-create value with citizens by crowdsourcing ideas from them.
CitizenLab is a platform that allows local governments and citizens to collaborate and innovate together. The city of Ostend , for example, has a CitizenLab platform to listen to the ideas and dreams of their inhabitants. Based on their input, city projects will be created and prioritised. In this way entropy is invited inside the governments instead being kept at bay.