EU study highlights innovative traits in the public sector

listening to employeesWhilst it’s tempting to think of innovation as purely a technological endeavor, there has been just as much effort placed into the improvement of how we operate within our organizations.  It’s perhaps a little bit oxymoronic to suggest such innovations can come from the public sector, but a European project aims to uncover some of the innovative practices throughout the continent.

The study, which looked at innovation across both public and private sectors found some fascinating examples of good practice from within the public sector.

Best practice

Across the case studies, a number of characteristics stand-out as being indicative of an innovative organization.  For instance, the most innovative organizations all had exceptional participation from employees in the implementation of workplace initiatives.

These improvements are often driven as much by external pressure as they are mandated from the governments above them.

Interestingly, many of the case studies come from traditionally hierarchical cultures.  For instance, there are a couple of case studies from eastern-European organizations that have encouraged more employee engagement in terms of ideas for improvement.

This was particularly evident at Polish organization Jaroslaw City Transport, who when faced with a financial shortfall made sure they involved employees in the response to this challenging situation so that they tackled it collectively.

Self-management

There were also some interesting examples of self-management, whether it was in the Danish construction services sector, or at South West University in Bulgaria, where self-management was used to schedule the work times of employees.

This was also evident at the British Geological Survey, which went from a command and control style structure to a much flatter, matrix style structure that aimed to foster entrepreneurial thinking.

Whilst these efforts are unlikely to garner the publicity of technology based innovations that are so common in the private sector, they are nonetheless indicative that the public sector is not a black hole as far as innovation is concerned.

Common across all of the case studies was the importance of employee involvement, with flat hierarchies also key to successful change and employee engagement.  The authors believe these are the kind of changes that can benefit organizations of all sizes.

The analysis also outlined the importance of constant communication and involvement by employees.  This helped to engender the kind of trust that was fundamental to successful change, whether in public or private organizations.

It’s an interesting paper, and whilst many of the findings are (hopefully) self-intuitive, they are sufficiently absent from enough workplaces to make it a point that’s worth repeating.

You can check out each of the 51 case studies used in the report here.

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