Summer blog series celebrates municipal innovators
Updated: Dec 17, 2021
Over the summer months, I will highlight municipal innovators who are improving processes and/or services that have a positive impact on the communities we serve.
Framework for meaning-making
A few weeks ago I made mention of Kevin Reid-Morris’ expertise in innovation. Kevin has worked with public and private organizations large and small seeking to affect change in internal processes and external offerings. Over the course of the last fifteen years Kevin has studied innovation and mobilized knowledge all over the world. He grounds his work in a well-defined set of tools and frameworks. In short, his artistry is informed by the science of innovation.
The Ten Types of Innovation, the brainchild of Keeley, Quinn, and Waters, is a critical resource in Kevin’s work and is a useful tool to identify the key areas to consider when innovating. As Kevin and I discuss innovation in the municipal space, we often refer to the Ten Types as a means of organizing our thoughts around the innovation that is taking place. Over the next two months I will use this blog to share the good work being done in our membership and illustrate relationships to the Ten Types framework.
Ten types of innovation in the MIC
Before we go any further, let's briefly review the Ten Types of Innovation model. Through comprehensive analysis of innovations, Keeley et al. were able to create ten “buckets” or types to classify innovations. Each type is further sorted into one of three categories: configuration, offering, and experience.
Below are all ten types of innovation sorted into their respective category and described in a municipal context.
Category 1 – Configuration
Innovations in the Configuration category are focused on the internal workings of an organization. Those include:
1. Funding Model – How do we fund services, by whom, and when?
Keeley’s model refers to this as Profit Model which makes complete sense for profit-focused organizations. However, municipalities need to have defined funding sources that support the services they provide to their communities. Regardless of sector, organizations need to determine how to charge for the services they provide. Municipalities are no different, but therein lies opportunity for innovative ways to resource services.
2. Network - How can we connect with others to create value?
No municipality needs to go about their work on their own. Informal connections like a contact made at a conference or more formal connections made through organizations like the Municipal Innovation Council provide us with access to learn from and collaborate with others.
3. Structure - How to align our talent and assets?
Municipalities are unique organizations with unique assets. Considerations around how hard, human, and intangible assets are structured can lead to innovations that create productive working environments and a competitive advantage when recruiting and retaining talent.
4. Process - How can we use our knowledge, methods, technology, and resources more optimally?
Municipalities are large organizations that have embedded workflows to coordinate the work done by staff and council. Process innovations are the ways that municipalities go about doing their work with an eye towards creating efficiencies and, in turn, adding additional value.
Category 2 - Offering
Innovations in the Offering category are focused on the services that the organization provides.
5. Product performance - How can we improve our service or product in a way that solves our problem more effectively and/or efficiently?
Municipalities are forever trying to improve the quality and value of services provided to community members. Critical to this type is determining ways to make services easier to use. The difference between process (#4) and product performance is that process innovation focus on how the work is done whereas product performance is focused on the quality of the services.
6. Product system - Is there an opportunity for tailored or customized offerings to community members that add value?
The MIC’s work on mapping municipal services is driven by our pursuit for product system innovation. This type is about municipal service offerings, and refers to service platforms, integrated services/bundled services, extensions of existing services and the creation of new services to enhance quality of life.
Category 3 - Experience
Innovations in the Experience category include:
7. Service - How can we improve our service to citizens?
All municipalities are legislated to provide specific services to all community members. Service innovation refers to the enhanced utility, performance, and value of an offering to the community. Central to this type of innovation is the improvement of a service engagement experience so that a community member’s engagement journey is positive.
8. Channel - How do we reach citizens and through which channels?
This type of innovation focusses on how municipalities connect with and deliver services to community members using the mediums best suited to their needs. The goal with channel innovation is to eliminate barriers to access.
9. Brand - How do we present our services?
Municipalities are public-facing organizations that need to communicate their value in ways that are easily understood. In addition, municipal teams provide critical leadership to community members, therefore requiring a multi-modal communications strategy to ensure key messages are received in digestible ways.
10. Customer engagement - How do we create sustainable and effective interaction with our communities?
Beyond the one off interactions that a community has with their municipal office when accessing a service, this type of innovation is focused on sustained engagement over an extended period of time with citizens.
Innovation in municipalities
Municipal teams are often innovating in their work but rarely see their efforts as innovative. If we assume that innovation requires inventing something (see my April 29th blog entry), then I can understand why we would not consider the work done to improve processes or services to be innovative.
But I am here to affirm that innovation can be incremental, sustained, and transformational, and that far more innovation is happening each and every day that is worth celebrating. The Ten Types of Innovation model clearly illustrates that innovation can happen in many ways including how we organize ourselves, what we offer the community, and how the community experiences our offerings.
Watch for the first post in the Municipal Innovators series and how the Ten Types of Innovation helps us make sense of the ways that municipal teams affect change small and large for the communities they serve.
Written by Dave Shorey, former Innovation Officer at the Municipal Innovation Council.