The Ideas + Innovation (I+I) Office of Ontario’s Modernization Division recently sponsored the first ever TEDx event as part of the Ontario Public Service’s celebrations of Creativity and Innovation Week 2011.
Launched during International Creativity and Innovation Week 2011, the OPS Innovation Action Plan is designed to foster a culture of innovation and prepare the OPS to meet future challenges while taking advantage of new opportunities.
By outlining clear direction and identifying tangible enterprise-level commitments, the plan provides a platform for creating innovation capacity and guides the organization’s journey toward changes in how we think and act. As the OPS builds a stronger culture of innovation, the plan will support improved outcomes for Ontarians, increase employee engagement and build more effective and efficient processes within the organization.
Building on its mandate to support the creation of a culture of innovation, the I+I office decided to sponsor the first ever TEDxOntarioPublicService event to promote awareness of innovation across the public service.
TED is a non-profit community devoted to the theme of “Ideas Worth Spreading.” Started in 1984, it brings together people from the three worlds of technology, entertainment and design and has become a global community welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world and, in turn, a better future for all of us.
Though I+I sponsored the event, the nucleus of the idea came from an OPS employee who wanted to deliver something new and different. A larger group of volunteers from across the organization enthusiastic about supporting a new initiative in the OPS came together quickly. The event took the form of a theatrical production team, with co-artistic directors, a stage manager, designer, communications specialist and audience engagement leads. The process of bringing TED to the OPS was as innovative and creative as the concept itself.
On April 19, OPS invited 120 participants and nine speakers to TEDxOPS to “Bring Our Values to Life.” The event spoke to the eight OPS values of trust, fairness, diversity, excellence, creativity, collaboration, efficiency and responsiveness and through presentations and discussions empowered employees to make those values their own. Participants heard how fellow OPSers connected with and expressed the values, ultimately making the public service a better place to work and Ontario a better place to live.
By linking the OPS to TED, a recognized and innovative brand, the event brought about a greater sense of engagement among colleagues and a greater connection to a global forum dedicated to sharing ideas that matter.
In the face of increasingly complex challenges, technological advancements and an accelerating pace of change, the OPS needs to be ready to tap into the benefits of innovation. TEDxOntarioPublicService challenged participants to think about what they would do “differently tomorrow because of today.” How would they drive change in their part of the organization that ultimately supported the people we serve?
Participants commented on the thought-provoking nature of the presentations, the connections they made, and the difference between this event and other public sector events they had participated in. Some indicated that “too frequently as public servants we have too little time to invest in our own development at a bigger-picture level. TEDx provided a forum for that kind of reflection.”
I+I recognized that this event would support the goal of building a culture of innovation, creating a more creative workplace and challenging all participants to take personal responsibility for breaking down barriers. Looking forward, we hope to engage in similar forums both in-person and virtually. We all learn differently and providing new ways to connect and learn together will support the organization in establishing itself as an employer of first choice.
Karen Prokopec is manager of OPS Ideas + Innovation.