The public sector innovation day 2016

To further highlight the importance of innovation management in the public sector, two Swedish governmental agencies – the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems (VINNOVA) and the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SKL) – launched the first ever Innovation Day targeting the Swedish public sector. The day is intended to spread information about good practices in innovation management, share examples of successful innovation to inspire like-minded, and to provide a platform for networking. In my opinion the event was very successful. The conference hall was bursting with public servants thirsty for the latest innovation updates and I am pretty sure they got more than they bargained for.

The Innovation Day 2016 was a crowded event

Innovation management activities and a new innovation prize
The agenda was full of intriguing seminars and activities such as a much appreciated presentation from the Danish initiative MindLab and research presentations by dear colleagues of mine. There were also a series of micro sessions where the visitors could immerse themselves in various topics such as how to form an innovation strategy, how to work with user innovation, how to approach working with experimental studios and testbeds, etc.

The day also contained an official prize ceremony where the Innovation Award 2016 was handed out. The award is envisioned to be a stimulating driver for further innovation projects in the public sector. This year the jury had to elect one innovative solution out of 50+ nominees submitted from municipalities, regions and authorities. The amount itself is a good indicator of the willingness to innovate out there, regardless of whether the underlying innovation management structure is organized and systematic or not. This is a very promising barometer for a first year event that hopefully increases plentiful next year. The winner of the Innovation Award was eventually a municipal solution for digital subsidiary applications.

Ministers, directors and researchers in the final lineup

The day ended with a panel discussion starring the Swedish Minister of Public Administration. Even if the national process is slow there seem to be some governmental initiatives that may further the progress somewhat. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

My personal reflections
The impressions I took with me was perhaps not very surprising. I could note that the interest of providing innovations far superceded the interest in understanding and implementing innovation management. This is disappointing, since such a superficial practice will not lead to continuous innovation results. I am fully aware that the end-goal of innovation management is to deliver innovations (and thus create new value) and that innovation management is a means, not a goal in itself. But innovation management is also the platform for delivering continuous innovation, which after all should be the objective to strive for if you are civil servant in the public sector. If one innovation is good, then many innovations should be much better. Because we should never forget the saying “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.