Professional Development – Session 2A

Ed Bernacki
Ed’s Subject: “Talking about innovation does not make you innovative”.
Abstract: There is much talk about innovation in the public sector. What this actually means is anything but clear. Ed Bernacki of the Idea Factory has worked with government departments in various countries to help them advance their innovation agendas. This session will give you an overview of three aspects of innovation:
1.    An international perspective on public sector innovation: case studies and examples of strategies that link quality and innovation.
2.    Managing people for more innovative results: managing people would be easy if everyone thought alike. They don’t yet do we implicitly assume they do?
3.    So what makes you innovative?  We need new skills to grow our personal tool kit for making effective decisions to solve problems and shape new opportunities.

Ed Bernacki created the Idea Factory to help people develop their capacity to innovate. He brings an international perspective to his work having worked with government departments in various countries to help shape and implement innovation programs. These range from helping to launch a national innovative thinking training program for the Singapore PMO to the Bank of Canada to various state level government departments in Australia.  In New Zealand, he also joined the Total Quality Service group for NZ Post for several years.

Ed provides guidance for innovation strategies for government departments and the specific tactics they use to build the capacity of staff to bring a sense of innovation to their daily work. This often involves learning new skills for innovative thinking and new insights for collaborating effectively.

He is the innovation columnist for several magazines and has written several books including, “I am an Idea Factory” – a practical guide to help managers build a capacity to innovate in their organizations. He was also the innovation learning partner for CCMD.

Ed’s specific interest is innovation in the service sectors. This requires a much broader view of the concept of building a capacity to innovate to help people solve problems and make more effective decisions. His style is guaranteed to be free of jargon and clichés.

Some additional words to think about from Ed Bernacki

Learning: Personalizing the Value Proposition

Difficult economic times have put a spotlight on all expenses in our organizations, including conferences and training. Recognizing that we exist in a knowledge economy and ideas are its currency, the need for learning and innovation creates an opportunity to rethink how we get value from these events.

I often ask people how they judge the value of conferences and workshops. The most common answer is, “If I get one good idea, then it was worth it.”  I follow up with the question: “Do you attend workshops and conferences, take notes, and never look at them again?”

The response to this question is always the same; about 70 per cent of people sheepishly raise their hand and then laugh when they see how many people fail to look at their notes. It’s safe to assume that we are not acting on our ideas if we do not even look at our notes. To create value for our organizations, this must change.
Building capacity to innovate within our organizations is often defined by three core elements:
*    Create opportunities to innovate
Leaders must lead and define where new thinking is needed to solve difficult challenges or create new initiatives.
*    Create the motive to innovate
Motive comes from our success to shape the climate of an organization. It’s the motivation to want to be innovative.
*    Developing new skills to innovate
It is naïve to assume that an educated employee is an innovative thinking employee. We need to develop personal and team skills to focus on problem-solving and decision-making to foster more innovative results. Consider a personal model to measure your ‘return on investment’ in workshops and conferences using the same innovation framework:
Creating opportunities to innovate
People often assume that conferences are about learning yet this greatly undervalues the potential. Learning should be a by-product, not the result. You are a leader in your organization as a HR manager.  As such, where is new thinking needed to solve your HR challenges?  Why not challenge yourself to define some higher level objectives? For example, what if you define;
*    One personal objective to define a specific problem you need to solve
*    One personal objective to create a new initiative such as a new internal program or process for managing people more effectively
Creating the motive to innovate
If your objectives are meaningful and important, then this should supply the motive and conviction to develop new ideas and act on them. Ensure you make time after the event to review your notes and to make decisions on the actions you will take.
Developing new skills to innovate
Learning to make effective notes and then converting these into ideas may take new skills. Practice the art of listening effectively. There are many sources of ideas at conferences. These include speakers, workshops and other participants. You may find a great idea and see how to apply it to your work right away. If so, be sure to get the information necessary to act on the idea. What does it take to make the idea work? What would cause it to fail? Brainstorm both sides of the idea.
Not all great ideas are handed to you ready to use. You may need to modify an idea to make it fit your circumstances. Be flexible in how you think about using an idea. You may change it in scope, or use only a part of it. In this way, you customize the idea so it becomes viable for your work.
Judge how you participate at conferences
Define your own ROI model. How will you demonstrate that you have created a useful return on investment for the training or conference? After the event ask yourself: overall, how would I rate my own participation?
*    Did I actively listen and record notes, ideas, questions and potential actions?
*    Did I set challenges during the workshops?
*    Did you achieve these challenges?
*    Did I follow up effectively by acting on my ideas?
The best way to get the budget for training and conferences is to show the value generated by these events, both internal and external. The greater your personal ROI, the greater your chances of getting the budget you need to improve the way we manage people inside our organizations.