Tell us about the journey to your current role and what it this role entails?
It all started with a crazy idea! After many years working in Human Resources and Business Improvement, I joined the City of Canning almost 4 years ago. I was excited to test out how transferable my business skills actually were in my first Public Sector role. It was perfect timing. We had a CEO who was driving cultural transformation and was encouraging people to have the ‘courage to be amazing’. I built up the courage and pitched an idea to him for an innovation program for our City. He told me to build a business case, and gave me the disclaimer to ‘be bold’ and ‘have no limits’. I took that as permission to push the boundaries so I built a website called ‘Amazing Ideas’! It helped him to visually understand Federal Government innovation strategy, innovation maturity models, access to resources (all the books, videos and articles on innovation that I was absorbing) and how we could build an inclusive employee driven innovation program. Eight months later at the end of 2017 he appointed me as the City’s first ever Chief Innovation Officer.
My role is to connect people and ideas. We have been developing the strategic and operational building blocks that will enable innovation to thrive in our City. We have adopted a people centric approach and have been building a culture that enables our people to Bounce – Beyond Limits. I work across the whole organisation assisting our people with the development and delivery of our Digital Strategy and Smart Cities Vision. I get hands on in a number of exciting innovative projects. I also build relationships with key external partners that can work with us to achieve our vision of a Welcoming and Thriving City.
I am regularly called the Crazy Ideas Officer! We like to have fun and you can’t take yourself too seriously when you are working in the creative world of innovation. It is an exciting time to be at the City of Canning.
Can you describe a project you are working on or recently completed? What challenges did you face along the way and how were they overcome?
Smart cities need smart people. We must continue to invest in our Government employees so we can build liveable, sustainable and productive cities for our residents. I have been working with Curtin University here in Perth to design and develop a first of its kind Executive Education Program that enables Government agencies to build an innovation culture. It’s called ‘Switch’.
In the public sector we face a number of blockers and barriers to innovation. We have fear of risk, fear of failure, we constantly battle through longstanding bureaucracy and red tape. So how can we ‘switch’ on innovation in government? We must have the courage to lead innovation conversations within our organisation and ones that extend past our traditional boundaries. The Switch Program comprises of practical teaching sessions, expert panels, mentoring sessions and experienced advice and support from government leaders and change makers. It is based on my individual innovation learning journey over the last 18mths. After seeing an interest in our approach to innovation and identifying a gap in the market for government focused courses that extend beyond basic innovation methodology we created Switch. We want help other government agencies build the culture that will enable their innovations to thrive.
The challenge was working with a university that has never co-branded a program like this, especially with a Local Government. It is unheard of! Therefore I love that the team at Curtin University have embraced this new way of thinking, and are partnering with us to deliver quality education that will help our industry. We are also working on a research project that will aim to validate the Switch program and inform our Government tiers on how we are building cultures of innovation across the sector.
What did you learn from this project? What did it achieve?
I have learnt how important it is to establish quality and build meaningful relationships with external partners if you want to be innovative. Innovation is more than just blue sky thinking. Innovation success comes to organisations that have the motivation to innovate, resources within the relevant task domains and skills in innovation management. We define innovation as change that adds value and we have learnt that to build our own culture of innovation we needed to work through five key stages;
1. Setting the agenda – Ensuring organisational wide support through Leader’s statements and actions around innovation.
2. Setting the stage – Ensuring our innovation goals are clear, resources are gathered, work context is established.
3. Producing ideas – Individuals or innovation project teams generate ideas or trial new processes/services.
4. Test and Implement – Organisational wide consideration of ideas, development, experimentation and piloting is encouraged.
5. Promote – Success, Failures (Lessons learnt) and Progress is promoted.
Helping others in the Public Sector to create the building blocks they need to be innovative is an important outcome of the Switch program.
What excites you most about the future?
I am most excited about seeing how communities, government, business and academia work together to build smart cities. We cannot create the future on our own. We are starting to see outstanding work by Local Governments that are open to partnering with their communities, schools, local universities, corporates and local businesses.
At Canning we have connected with a number of local, national and international Local Governments to make sure we understand the future of smart cities, and can learn from their case studies. We are especially interested in learning more so we can become leaders in water efficiency, sustainability, connectivity, mobility and intelligent industrial areas. Technology is rapidly accelerating and we have a responsibility to up skill ourselves and collaborate with others to deliver digital transformation for our city. We have the ability to make it simple and fast for our citizens to do business with the City by embracing innovation, technology and collaboration. How can we not be excited about that future!
If you could give one piece of advice to someone looking to further their career in government, what would it be?
Make a conscious effort today to become a Giver, and embrace #kindworking. Approach your interactions with others from a perspective of how you can add value to them, without expecting something in return. Embrace #kindworking by actively listening to people you are connecting with and uncovering opportunities to support them in their role or career – whatever that might be. Share your knowledge, expertise and learnings with others. Join committees, networks or boards where you can make meaningful impact on others. Find ways to be a giver.
A huge body of evidence suggests that organisations with more Givers perform better on every metric that has been measured. Make sure you are people centric. Take the time to understand the role you play in the job to be done by your community/customer. Are you fulfilling a functional, emotional or the social job to be done? Figure it out and make sure you work with others to deliver.
Where do you look to for further education? E.g. articles, podcasts, news sources, online courses, university etc.?
Platform that helps public servants around the world to innovate and build smart cities. You can follow them on LinkedIn to keep an eye on recently released articles.
Technology and Entrepreneurship Center – Harvard University
The City Innovators program produce white papers on Civic Innovation from their Smart Cities Innovation Accelerators that they hold around the world. Great to get the insight from other countries.
LinkedIn is awesome for quick bites of information and to check in with what is happening across the network. I love connecting with likeminded people and sharing our innovation adventures on this platform with people who are interested.
• Give and Take by Adam Grant
• The Innovation Formula by Dr Amantha Imber
• Gamestorming by Dave Gray (Ideation games to get your creativity flowing)
What are you most looking forward to at the event?
Connecting with people and ideas. We are always looking for opportunities to collaborate with other organisations. I love learning what people are working on and these forums give us an opportunity to get out of the building and share with others outside of our organisation. Amazing innovation can happen when we take the time to listen to others and collaborate!