New Whitehall innovation hub

There’s nothing explicitly technological in the announcement today by the National School of Government that ‘the Sunningdale Institute has established an Innovation Hub to develop know-how on stimulating and supporting innovation in government and the public services’ – as announced in the DIUS Innovation Nation white paper. (See Steph’s interactive version.) But since the Hub’s raison d’etre was to ‘capture and disseminate learning about public sector innovation’, it would seem insane for there not to be some kind of electronic communication component.
The press release, not yet on the NSG website (?!), says the Hub will ‘carry out research and consultancy, network formation and active learning events for departmental leaders, develop corporate mechanisms that will help incentivise innovation, and look to international government interventions that seek to support more innovative government.’ Um, I’m sure that all sounds great. Let’s see where it goes.
So it’s not the online innovation hub I’d hoped for, when I saw the headline. I still think there’s a role for such a group, perhaps along the lines of the Economist’s Project Red Stripe group: six people given six months, and a six figure budget to do something cool and web-based. It’s worth downloading the project wash-up they wrote at the end of last year, describing the lessons they learned for such initiatives.

3 thoughts on “New Whitehall innovation hub”

  1. I know the National School well, but sadly I gave up hope long ago about its ability to be genuinely innovative, or to deliver anything decent in terms of communication or IT. So don’t hold your breath.

  2. I once read somewhere that the best way to write a book is to start writing a book. As you suggest, Simon, the best thing that this, er, hub could do is to get its hands dirty and start innovating. Not entirely sure why it’s a ‘Whitehall’ innovation ‘hub’. It suggests that innovation is now going to be driven by a group of big brains at the centre, whereas it’s been known for years in business that innovation has to happen as close to the customers as possible. This isn’t rocket science.
    I once heard Tom ‘Kwik-Fit’ Farmer give an excellent talk at an IT strategy conference (moderated by Edward de Bono, no less). His operating principles were very simple. Everyone in the organisation was there to support his Kwik-Fit fitters (no one is quicker than them, of course). He drew an inverted pyramid, with him at the bottom, to make his point. He didn’t allow the people directly above him to think of themselves – or call themselves – HQ staff. They were just support staff, and innovation was driven by customers and the fitters.
    The very name of this outfit suggests that they think they are somehow in charge of innovation. If they see their job as enabling change at the front line and can persuade Whitehall that it’s at the very bottom of the pyramid, then maybe they can do some good. But I’m not sure how ministers – who rather like to feel that they are running things – will really go along with that idea.

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