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Innovation IS for Everyone!

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Marvin Pichla
March 14, 2017

We have all heard it somewhere, sometime during work, social gatherings or maybe even a family gathering: “I don’t have a creative, innovative bone in my body.” Or maybe something like: “I can never come up with a cool idea… I just don’t know how people come up with new stuff!” Well, it has been my career-long belief everyone has some degree of innovation. However, I also believe that sometimes it is difficult to find a good starting point to move the creative process forward. Therefore, this article is intended to offer a thoughtful four step guide to activate innovation start-up and hopefully build the incidence of entrepreneurship in the public sector.

The initial building block of innovation is identification of the non-traditional service/action one wants to improve. So often in the quest for real innovation, attempting to peel back all the layers of influences, impacters and defining what do we really want is the greatest challenge. For example, what if the innovation target was to improve the reading and math literacy levels of all production workers in your manufacturing company? Truly it is a wonderful target but how do you get to a specific creative action? Before you put in place your first innovation foundation block we need to determine:

  • What is a low reading and math level?
  • How many employees might be affected?
  • Do unions must approve?
  • Can it be done during regular work hours or are we talking overtime?
  • How much might it cost?
  • Where do we find training classroom space/technology?

As you can see all of these questions (and more) would have to be at

least discussed to best identify your innovation. Additionally, one or two personnel opinions would probably not be enough because the challenge of improving literacy levels is not an “one-size-fits-all” answer. However, to move forward with our discussion, lets accept our identification innovation building block will be: Raising reading and math levels of company production workers by technologically camouflaging learning components into their everyday work routines.

Now that we have successfully honed down our target/non-traditional service improvement action and have organizationally “set” our identification innovation block, lining up the necessary materials is our next objective. It is key to building any innovation to retain an across the board mindset of inclusion. By this I mean it is critical to consider the materials assistance that can be leveraged from past, current and new partners both individuals and entities. With the rapid changes that occur in both the public and private sectors, connecting directly with each and allowing them to report their interest and capacities will strengthen your innovation materials partnership unlimited inclusion strategy.

Again, there would be a series of materials questions:

  • Do we need money, and if so, how much?
  • What about location and space?
  • Could we obtain local, regional or national expert assistance?
  • What would be our technological needs?

Given our proposed target innovation: Raising the reading and math levels of company production workers by technologically camouflaging learning components into their every day work routines, we can project that our major materials needs would be funding and a qualified work task analyst and computer application specialist.

We have now selected and set our non-traditional service improvement identification and materials innovation building blocks, so our next challenge is to work on the assembly process. Interestingly the first step in addressing the assembly process is to return to the questions raised in the identification and materials creativity components. Revisiting each of these issues/questions will assist in building an innovation that is:

  • Effective and efficient
  • User friendly and flexible
  • Transportable
  • Offers immediate gratification features
  • Is sustainable and adaptable

By technologically integrating our literacy-based innovation into standard business operations, the assembly process strategically/conveniently becomes a company-wide initiative.

The final innovation building block is implementation. One of the key factors in successfully initiating the implementation phase of any innovation is to create a high level of understandability and ownership among all affected. Word-of-mouth promotion and support is one of the greatest human nature tools for obtaining solid understandability and ownership of new initiatives in any organization. Therefore, it will be critical as leadership begins implementation of our example innovation to take planned actions to ensure understandability and ownership of the new operational improvement concept.

With all of the change challenges facing the field of public administration service creativity, new “product” development and innovative programming are all terms that should flood every policy paper and operations document. If everyone can embrace innovation as a fun IDENTIFICATION-MATERIALS-ASSEMBLY-IMPLEMENTATION practice, the progressive outcomes could be unending. Let’s start today!


Author: Marvin N. Pichla, Ph.D., is the owner and creative adviser of Inspiring Innovations, Inc. Sharing his unique entrepreneurship and innovation in public service experience, Marv consults with public and private business, education and community organizations to develop new and different problem-solving methods through real-life, example-based learning. Email: [email protected].

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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