How Modern Government Departments are innovating and adapting

It’s a common misconception that innovation is the territory of young, agile companies. More traditional organisations are adapting by introducing unique strategies to promote an innovative culture and disrupt the traditional ways they’ve done work. In fact, government departments in Australia like Transport for NSW, the Department of Primary Industries and the Department of Defence have been leading the way in this rebellion against bureaucracy, seeking new solutions to challenges that their industries face.

Stanford professor and serial-entrepreneur Steve Blank argues that the key factor that sparks innovation in government organisations is crisis, while the biggest inhibitor is lack of flexibility. This can be seen in three case studies of local Australian government organisations.

Transport For NSW – Envisioning a future of AI

AI could be the single most disruptive force to the business world in the near future, and public transport is likely an area that will face dramatic changes. Therefore in preparation for what the future might look like, Transport for NSW identified bureaucracy as a key barrier preventing their department from adapting. In order to encourage a more flexible and innovative work culture, they came up with the term ‘minimum viable bureaucracy’, a play on a term commonly used in startups – ‘minimum viable product’.

They’ve also introduced programs to encourage ‘intrapreneurship’, which enables the discovery of creative ideas to solve customer problems. One such program tackled the frequent crisis of standstill traffic and crowd management by generating an idea for using real-time data to determine how full train carriages are, rather than the expense of installing cameras on board, which has now come into action.

NSW Department of Primary Industries – Beekeeping made easy

In the same vein as Transport for NSW’s concept of ‘minimum viable bureaucracy’, the NSW business commissioner collaborated with the Department of Primary Industries to reduce the time consuming and complex journey that beekeepers have to go through when setting up a business and having to deal with different government departments. The access to land to follow the flowers and pollen is a complex process involving 500 different lands, so they also introduced a compliance and growth mindset for easier commercial outcomes. When tackling a complicated problem like this, it’s important to get together a coordinated effort to cut through bureaucracy and think of more efficient ways to tackle the problem from the beekeepers point of view. To create jobs and keep up with the exponential evolution of technology, government departments need to be part of the solution to complex problems that society will face.

Department of Defence – Funding an innovative future

In December of last year, the Department of Defence launched the Defence Innovation Hub, intended to encourage industry and research organisations to submit proposals for the development of innovative technology and ideas to improve Defence capability. The Defence Innovation Hub (a fully funded programme) has radically transformed the way the Department of Defence is now planning, assessing and processing new innovation submissions. They are providing clear key indicators on areas of need so that submissions can be targeted, and they have completely overhauled the procurement contracts to align with innovation purchasing. The initiative has successfully overcome a lack of flexibility in the department by providing a dedicated platform for innovation.

Innovation at work can be encouraged in a number of simple ways – sometimes the best thing to do for your business is just to start with an experiment and learn, look for role models and be aware of new tech solutions that can support and drive continual improvement in cost effective ways.

Ikabo Incubator is one such tech product that can support your business transformation - it provides you with the ability to make faster, smarter decisions and allows you to collaborate and co-create with others.