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UK: Beyond2010: Leadbeater – ‘We Need Solutions to Problems, not Deliver Services’
Source: publictechnology.net
Source Date: Friday, October 22, 2010
Country: Europe
Created: Oct 25, 2010

“Vantage point is the most important thing when starting along an innovation process,” announced leading innovator and government advisor, Charles Leadbeater, told delegates at Beyond2010 in Birmingham this week.

In a session discussing radical thinking and the stimulation of innovation within public services, Leadbeater said, “Many of the challenges we face are things we need to create solutions to, rather than deliver services to solve. A service can only solve a little bit of most of the problems we face. You cannot solve complex problems like a family in crisis or an old person with a chronic condition and is socially isolated by delivering a pizza-like service that goes in an out. You need a service that can work with that complexity."
 
He pointed out while fewer financial resources in the public sector was well known, “it doesn’t mean fewer resources in society.” Fewer financial resources formed one of four points raised by Leadbeater, alongside rising expectations, intractable ingrained problems, and emerging challenges, who went on to describe the different types of innovation (sustained and disruptive) and the two settings where innovation happens (inside and outside institutions), and added, "Many of the ingredients [to innovation and problem solving] are already there but are very poorly combined”.
  
“Most of the innovation in the UK public sector is a combination of sustained innovation within inside institution, offering ‘better versions of what we’ve got’,” he argues. “It’s vital, but not enough.”
 
According to Leadbeater, the next step for organisations looking to embrace innovation is to have disruptive innovation within institutional frameworks, for instance prisons and schools that “aren’t as different as they look”. He warned of one danger this type of innovation sometimes fosters: “Professionals by and large love it because they have new buildings and kit to play with, but it doesn’t change the culture outside of those institutions”.
 
The game-changing innovation, so-called ‘Transformational Innovation’, said Leadbeater, comes about via outside institutions and disruptive thinking. For the government advisor, public sector organisations need a mix of innovations to work together: “There is a complete imbalance in our capacity to innovate.”

Public sector preservation

As his first major outspoken argument, Leadbeater bluntly said the public sector “likes to preserve the problem to which they see themselves as the solution,” and stated, “the health service is by and large run for doctors, by doctors”.
 
Throughout the rest of his talk, in which he identified high engagement and low volume communication like social media (such as the cited Mumsnet) and described it as “the new space that’s difficult to into,” Leadbeater was further outspoken on the innovation that makes a big or small impact from big or small investments. “Most social innovations are not about changing life that much,” he argued, before explicitly identifying government ICT programmes – most notably the National Programme for IT (and former director general for the NPfIT, Richard Granger) as “high investment and small impact”.
 
Leadbeater continued in that vein, calling to question previous conference speaker, and COO of the Efficiency and Reform Group Ian Watmore: “I can’t understand where Ian Watmore has been when he thinks most of the problems in the private sector’s relationship with the public sector come from small companies cocking things up,” Leadbeater said to a smattering of applause. “In my experience it’s the big companies ocking things up, and bein rewarded for it.”
 
He also took a pot-shot at the top 19 suppliers to government and their signing of Memorandums of Understanding in recent weeks. While all signatories agree to cut some of the costs to the public sector, Leadbeater said the move almost made the group a “cartel-like club”.
 
Following such remarks, Leadbeater took a more calmed approach in a concise summary at the end of the thought provoking speech, and advised delegates they should, “look for high engagement, low volume innovations”, and to seek big impacts from small investments. Finally, as an ideal, he said, organisations should be looking for a “mixture of the very old and new”.

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