A modern public service is one that is relevant, flexible and effective in dealing successfully with today’s fast-paced world and anticipating future challenges and opportunities. This requires a culture of ideas, innovation and continuous improvement.
“In a public service organization as large as the Ontario Public Service (OPS), innovation must be driven from all businesses, branches and levels of the organization. It must become part of our shared culture,” says Angela Coke, Assistant Deputy Minister, Modernization Division of the Ministry of Government Services.
To build an innovative culture, an organization must:
· Have a clearly defined vision and strategy
· Foster a culture of innovation by communicating and embedding shared values, behaviours and expectations
· Provide adequate resources to generate and implement ideas
· Provide training, coaching and support to enhance creative thinking
· Recognize employees and provides positive reinforcement that supports innovation, and
· Work closely with customers/stakeholders to cultivate new ideas and add value through new partnerships.
The OPS Ideas and Innovation Office has been set up in the Modernization Division at the Ministry of Government Services, to help foster a culture of innovation and support the modernization of the OPS.
The OPS Ideas program is based on the premise that the best ideas on how to improve services and achieve savings often come from the people who do the work. The program encourages employees to submit their creative ideas on how to improve services, generate efficiencies and drive down costs. Employees can submit their ideas and track the status of their ideas throughout the assessment process on the OPS Ideas online system.
Through the OPS Innovation Fund program, the OPS provides “seed-money” for ministries to develop and implement innovative ideas and projects. The funding allows the program areas to explore new and different ways to conduct business.
The selection and evaluation process for innovation fund proposals is conducted by review panels consisting of staff from all levels of the OPS.
Since its introduction in 2004, the Fund has supported 70 projects across the OPS with potential annual savings of close to $10M. In fiscal 2007-08, another 25 projects will be implemented. The projects supported by the OPS Innovation Fund cover a wide spectrum of innovation across the OPS.
· A secure, web-enabled jury selection and management system – an online jury selection and scheduling system that will significantly reduce errors and improve process efficiency by 20%;
· Vertical wind turbines to generate power at the Kenora Fire Management Headquarters. The pilot project utilizes the new generation of wind turbines that work on low wind speed that reduces electricity consumption by 38%;
· 3D scanning technology to digitally capture collision scene evidence – the 3D automated mapping technology enables the Ontario Provincial Police to reduce road closure time and improve the quality and efficiency of the investigative services at collision scenes.
The OPS Ideas Program has been recognized for promoting and supporting innovation in the OPS. The program received a Gold Award at the 2006 Public Service Quality Fair and a merit Award at Showcase Ontario 2007.
Projects supported through the OPS Innovation Fund have also achieved recognition including the Ministry of Natural Resource Fire Management project, which utilizes GPS technology to map and inform decision making in containing forest fires. The project has achieved a Diamond Award at Showcase Ontario 2007.
Another way the OPS is ensuring a sustained source of ideas and fostering creativity is providing training to its employees to encourage creative thinking.
In partnership with the Centre for Leadership and Learning, the OPS Ideas and Innovation Office offers the “Cultivating Innovation in the Workplace” workshop to OPS employees. The workshop explores the concept of innovation and provides tools and techniques for managers and staff to brainstorm ideas.
The OPS Ideas Program and the OPS Innovation Fund program are advancing innovation within the OPS and contributing to the OPS’ goal to provide high quality, cost-effective services that meet the needs of the people of Ontario.
Anna Lau is with the OPS Ideas and Innovation Office.