Spreading the word – selling the innovation message

[Originally published on the Australian Government Public Sector Innovation Network under a Creative Commons 3.0 BY AU licence]

A question that keeps us occupied is: does everyone who might be interested in public sector innovation in the APS (and state and territory and local goverments) know about this blog, the network and the work being done to make the public sector more innovative?

As readers of this blog will be aware, we here at the Department of Innovation are responsible for a network of public servants, academics and select others interested in public sector innovation and a range of other outreach activities. While the network has continued to grow over the past 14 months, we are always looking for opportunities to spread the word of innovation and talk to others who might be interested.

As part of this agenda my colleague Matthew Squire and I recently presented to this year’s graduate intake at our Department. (For those unfamiliar, many Australian Government agencies have a graduate recruitment program). We began the year by encouraging this year’s grads to join the network and took this presentation as an opportunity to emphasise public sector innovation. We are also looking at how we might do this as part of the wider staff induction program, to ensure that new starters to the Department are aware of the efforts being made to build our innovation capabilities at the Department of Innovation. It’s also useful for us to hear from those we present to and to see what resonates (or does not).

The thought for this (for me anyway) came from an interview I undertook when I was part of the team developing the report Empowering Change: Fostering Innovation in the Australian Public Service. The person I was interviewing spoke about how it was difficult to sell innovation to an organisation as a whole. There would be differing levels of interest, including some who just would not be interested, and many whose interest would depend on how it was sold to them. They suggested that targeting different cohorts was far more effective.

Now this may sound like simple marketing – tailoring your delivery to different audiences – and I suppose it is. But it was also about recognising that one person’s interest in innovation might fluctuate over time, depending on where they are at in their job (or even their life), and that with innovation it is far more effective to try and identify those groups who might be more inclined to the innovation message and start there. Hence our presentation to the graduates.

We’ve also presented to different groups at a range of other agencies (and if you are interested in getting us to do so at your agency, feel free to send us an email to discuss). We’ve spruiked the network and the blog at events, through our networks, and by asking others to pass on the message. Yet I am certain that there are a number of public servants out there that are interested in public sector innovation, and who do not know about this blog, the network or even Empowering Change.

What would help you, our readers and members of the network, promote the public sector innovation agenda (including the network and the blog) more broadly? What might we be able to do that would help?