Voices from Accenture Public Service


“If you build it, he will come.” It’s been nearly 30 years since the movie, Field of Dreams, introduced that mantra into the pop-culture lexicon. In the realm of government innovation, I would propose a modified version: “If you start innovating, your culture will come along.”

In other words: Don’t get hung up trying to build a perfect “field” for innovation. Just get started—and let your innovation successes and failures shape a culture that’s willing to take risks and experiment.

Cultural aspects of innovation are at the heart of Absorption—the fifth and final pillar of the Accenture Innovation Framework. We’ve been exploring the five pillars (also including Ideation, Execution, Impact & Benefits and Strategy) following Accenture’s global study of government innovation leaders.

This final pillar reinforces the importance of absorbing innovation throughout the culture, with the most promising ideas chosen for execution. It’s about establishing ownership and permitting risks. Above all, it’s about ensuring that innovation isn’t just a buzzword or a concept. It needs to be a philosophy—a way of thinking and of operating.

Historically, of course, governments haven’t been known as big risk takers. As a former government executive, I know there are very good reasons for that. If a private-sector executive undertakes a bold new approach, he or she isn’t likely to land on the front page of the newspaper if it fails. Yet that has been a very real risk for leaders in government agencies.

Fortunately, Accenture’s survey of nearly 600 government leaders across 10 countries suggests a growing shift toward more innovative cultures. More than half of all respondents (54 percent) told us that collaboration is happening across departments. The same percentage said the skillsets in their workforce are very diverse and open to thinking differently. What’s more, 49 percent reported that their agency is open to innovation—already displaying strong interaction with the broader ecosystem and a readiness to influence and be influenced by external parties.

The best way to build on that momentum? Get out in the field and start playing. Chances are, innovation is already percolating within your organization. Work to bring it out. Don’t accept the conventional wisdom about government’s inability to change.

With risk tolerance, openness, funding and clear communication of selection criteria as the cultural building blocks of innovation, use what’s already in place or keep working to adopt these elements. The great news is that today’s technology makes it easier than ever to experiment on a small scale. So you can test and try—and then invest in what works. It’s what government innovation leaders are already doing.

These leaders understand that yes, you’ll win some and you’ll lose some. But over time, the victories outnumber the defeats—and the real winners are the constituents you serve.

Want to learn more? Take some time to review our full report, which offers additional findings and recommendations related to the Absorption pillar. And stay tuned for my final post in this series, which will drive home the bottom-line importance of government innovation.

For additional insights on government innovation, visit us here, and follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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