How Do I Innovate?

The question “How do I innovate?” is on the minds of many government leaders. It’s a big question and an implementable answer starts the definition of innovation – doing something different to add value for a customer. There are other definitions but I use this one because it focuses on the customer, on value-add for the customer and the innovating organization, and on the organization becoming different and staying different. These are all critical to successful government innovation.

So how does one decide what to do differently to add value for a customer?

By working through each of the definition’s three parts. But don’t start with the first part because it’s a trap. There’s probably no end to things you could do differently so starting here will lead to exasperating conversations about remaking the world. Arrange conversations in this order:

Get oriented

  1. What are we currently doing to deliver value for customers?
  2. What are we currently trying to do differently to add value for customers?

Review what you know and believe you know about the customer

  1. Who are our customers? What customer segments do we have?
  2. What’s going on in their environment? Is it changing on them?
  3. What do they value?
  4. If we helped our customer solve a problem for their customer, what would that look like?

Review your current value position

  1. What are our value propositions for customer segments?
  2. Is there a gap between current value and value they’d like to receive?
  3. How does it divide between doing and knowing?
  4. How does it divide between citizen/business and agent?

Propose alternative future value positions

  1. Which value proposition for which customer segment?
  2. How much value-add?
  3. What are impacts to our organization’s business, technology, and culture models?
  4. Which customer value propositions add what value to our organization by way of knowledge and skill acquisition, building innovation capability, learning, etc.?

At some point you’ll narrow options to a preferred choice in part due to things having little to do with innovation, such as the timing of the decision with organizational planning, budget, schedule, and partner opportunities and constraints.

These conversations and decisions are iterative and incremental. Make provisional decisions as you go and revisit as you learn more information. It doesn’t matter if conversation hops around. Many topics are connected so that will happen. If your team feels lost or stuck, refocus on one part of the definition and the next iteration will get conversation back on track.

How to innovate is an easy question with a not entirely easy answer. But working through the definition will make what might seem like a roadless wilderness easy to navigate.

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