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Rachel Murphy
April 3, 2018

WTF is Digital: Part 3. Innovation & Agility

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Keeping nimble, agile and continuously innovating are often the thing of fantasies for many organisations. Not many companies can really attest to this, but some are doing a cracking job of trying.

I’ve often debated whether it’s easier or harder depending on whether you are a big corporate with money sloshing around and lots of staff or a startup with a handful of energisers and not a pot to piss in. Still debating frankly…

For us, at Difrent we don’t get ‘thinking time’ in anywhere near as often as we should (which in my book leads to innovation). In the last 6 months, I can count two or three sessions that would fit into this category, a far cry from a day a week at the likes of Google. Just before we signed off for Easter we did run a cracking workshop bringing together an eclectic group of friends with backgrounds across every conceivable sector to brainstorm what services we will take to market and why.

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I’ve seen some great examples of innovation, agility and communities across Gov and the public sector over the last few years: collaborate workspace, the introduction of labs, partnering with not-for-profit like Tech UK, multi-vendor delivery, SME join ups, joint ventures, movements and communities like Gov Camp, Unconferences, Firebreaks………the list goes on!

I’ve even been responsible for a few — Agility — a lab in Victoria, I knew we needed to change the look and feel of the office environment to create true collaboration. A physical move from Elephant & Castle to Victoria supported this initiative and was a great opportunity to bring together two teams who were struggling to get on the same page together. This move to a different environment with whiteboards, high desks, low desks, open spaces yielded great results that went a step further when we bought multi-vendor teams together onsite to support outcome-based delivery!

Tech UK are a great organisation who amongst other things help the public sector get engaged with SME’s. I’ve used them extensively with clients and am delighted they are helping us again later this month with our client NHS BSA to ‘kick the tyres’ on our proposed op mode for NHS Jobs. I know DWP used them to do a dragon’s den with great success tabling a business challenge and asking suppliers to ‘go large’ with ideas to tackle this. Tech UK has a number of opportunities advertised right now for public sector orgs where they act as a broker service and help get the right people in the room, innovation sits at the heart of this.

Difrent partner with Accenture and I had the pleasure of exploring their lab in Newcastle with some of our Deployment team earlier this year. We saw some awesome test environments using IBM Watson, bringing both Virtual and Augmented Reality to life in the workplace and Accenture shared how they are bringing students in from 16 yrs old now, throwing caution to the wind with the old policies of needing a degree to join them. Bringing talent in early with different backgrounds has really helped their approach to Innovation. It’s worth adding Accenture’s recent acquisitions of Karmarama and Fjord is agility and innovation at its best, cracking digital delivery outfits that they absolutely have not tried to integrate into the wider business; rather added to their portfolio.

The other element that I think Government has got in spades is that of Communities and Movements. People who work in or for Government and really want to improve Public Services. I attended my first UK GovCamp this year, an initiative started by Jeremy Gould in 2008 and now supported by a number of well-known legends including James Cattell, Sarah Baskerville and Janet Hughes. GovCamp for me is absolutely a movement, hierarchy doesn’t get a look in, we had MP’s, Perm Secretary’s, CDO and a boatload of doers from all across the UK with one thing in common, they wanted to give up their time (at the weekend) to try and improve Public Services. Highly, highly commendable!!! Also worth mentioning GovCamp isn’t alone in this; there are a load of these style of Meetups UK wide and don’t even get me started on Unconferences…

I can’t write an article about innovation without at least mentioning Apple, Netflix, Amazon, Spotify or Google! Covered somewhat more eloquently by Fast Company than yours truly but wow those companies have really got it going on!!! In doing some background reading to support this blog (I know I was surprised too!) this really stuck out and rang so true to me.

Apple’s commitment to innovation is cultural, not process driven. The most successful products at Apple were started with only a few people with no formal structure or hierarchy and little corporate oversight.

Kinda sums it up really; ideas, appetite and a desire to do things differently.

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