1 What is innovation?
Innovation is, in many ways, a concept that we all perhaps recognise when we see or experience. Yet often we might struggle to clearly define it. Sometimes an innovation might be a product or service that is new or simply different, other times it might be an idea, process or approach that is a change to the way things have been done previously.
Activity 1 What does innovation mean to you?
What do you think are the key elements of innovation? Reflect for a moment and note down your thoughts in the box below.
To better understand what innovation is in practice, it is worth considering two key definitions.
Hartley and Knell (2021, p. 2) assert that ‘innovation is about new ideas or practices which are implemented’ [original emphasis]. The distinction highlighted by this definition is absolutely vital as it highlights the dual nature of innovation – on the one hand it is about something being new (in this case ideas or practices), and on the other it is about actual implementation.
Developing these ideas further, the International Standards Organisation (ISO) – better known for its work developing quality and assurance standards such as ISO 9001 – defines innovation as ‘the successful exploitation of a new idea to realise value. It can relate to a product, a service, a process, a model, or any combination of these. Some ideas are small; some are big; but innovative ideas will be novel and will make a difference’ (Enterprise Ireland, 2021).
As this latter definition highlights, rather than just being about the implementation of ideas or practices – which is undoubtedly vital – innovation is also about the realisation of value for the organisation and for stakeholders.
The importance of this for public sector innovation in particular are emphasised by Hartley (2005, p. 27) when she highlights that ‘the drivers [for innovation] in the public sector are to achieve widespread improvements in governance and service performance, including efficiencies, in order to increase public value’. In this regard, the distinction between profit-oriented private sector innovation, and service- and outcome-oriented public sector innovation are worth highlighting.
Activity 2 Perspectives on innovation in policing
In this video Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton, of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), shares his insights into some of the key questions of innovation in policing. Key questions include:
- From a policing perspective, what is innovation?
- Why is innovation important for policing?
- What would you see as the most important innovations to emerge in policing in recent years?
- What role do police leaders play in supporting innovation?
- What are the key barriers to innovation in policing?
- What role can communities play in policing innovation?
- How can innovation be enhanced in policing?
Having watched the clip and listened to ACC Singleton’s perspectives, reflect and make some notes on how you might be able to draw upon his insights to enhance innovation in your organisation.