Innovation: 'You do not have to be sick to get better'
'Innovation is too often treated as a project, while a process-oriented approach is called for,' so says Marcel Bruggers, Associate Partner at Boer & Croon. He developed a methodology - Value Adding and Implementation process - to successfully innovate at (semi-)governmental bodies.
Marcel Bruggers works with clients to build up the innovative capacity of their organisation. In the past, he has experienced by trial and error how things should not be done. As a young civil engineer, he was involved fifteen years ago in an initiative at the Dutch Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management (Rijkswaterstaat) to prevent sand accumulation in harbours. Once the innovative solution had been developed technically and could be realised at low cost, nothing at all happened. In hindsight, it turned out that not enough consideration had been given to a multitude of non-technical aspects, so the innovation could not count on sufficient support and was frustrated by existing agreements and structures. This got Marcel thinking, and so he developed an innovation process whereby all obstacles are successively dealt with, leading to a maximum chance of success for innovation initiatives.
BLUEPRINT OF THE ORGANISATiON
'By not starting off with the technical side of the story. That might just form 10% of the solution. First of all, you have to take a look at the stakeholders and map out the ecosystem. Therefore, in a project like this, you have to start with a blueprint of the organisation and with the question: 'Who do I need to involve and which organisations are relevant?' 'Only after that do you start with the technical side of the project. Otherwise, this kind of innovation is doomed to fail. Because you often see that innovation is treated as a project, whereas a process-oriented approach is called for instead and forms the basis for focused portfolio management.'
'Look, (semi)governmental bodies have an extensive set of tasks, and coming up with innovations is not one of them. That should be left to enterprising, commercial parties. However, the government then needs to know how to filter out the right ones from all those innovative techniques, technologies and methodologies. That is a difficult chore and I can advise them on this.' 'I've personally developed a methodology for this (see the section at the bottom of this article), based on a scientifically substantiated principle. Which I have made applicable and usable for all those asset-managing governmental bodies and semi-governmental bodies.
NOT MUCH ATTENTION FOR ORGANISATIONAL OBSTACLES
'That's really tricky. Especially since governmental bodies are, in essence, cautious. And that fits in perfectly with their role. After all, they manage a certain infrastructure, such as waterways or motorways, cycle paths or, as in Amsterdam, quay walls. And managers are - as is already implicit in the word - cautious. And that is a good thing, because otherwise you would have a diversity of motorways and dykes that is impossible to manage. What I am trying to do is to get a number of people in crucial positions to take an innovative view of the task they face. Then you are well on your way.
If, for example, you ask an operational manager or administrator to decide whether an innovation should be pushed through or not, 99 times out of 100 you will be given a negative answer. Therefore, you have to make sure that the responsibility for the innovation lies with a tactical or strategic thinker within the executive organisation. Not an isolated innovation club, because then it will never be implemented. What you often see is that an innovation like that is started by people with a technical background. They have a lot of affinity with - and as such, an exclusive focus on - the technology, and consequently don't pay much attention to other issues such as organisational obstacles and consequences.' The process that I have developed ensures that all the necessary parties are involved and all the essential aspects are highlighted. Also, at the outset, we look as broadly into things as possible, which means that although you don't have a lot of depth in the beginning, you do have an overview of what this kind of innovation entails, what consequences it has and whether it can be implemented at all. Then you can already see very soon if something has a chance of success.'
BUILDING ON INNOVATIVE STRENGTH
'Innovation is being carried out everywhere; inside virtually every organisation and at almost every level. Therefore, you could say that things are going just fine; the wheels are turning. My experience, however, is that you do not have to be sick to get better. And what is also my experience, is that instigators of innovation projects are not specifically recruited with the right skill set for these, that an ineffective approach is adopted, and that the internal culture and assessment systems tend to obstruct innovation.' 'You could stick with the status quo, or you could build on the innovative strength of your organisation. With my methodology, we achieve twice as many results in large programmes with roughly half the budget. That is not because we work harder, but because effective portfolio management is possible using my innovation process.'
BUILDING TOGETHER WITH CLIENTS
'Because Boer&Croon operates on a strategic/tactical level, where impactful decisions are taken for an organisation. What I find important is that our consultants do not just want to stand on the sidelines and tell you how things should be done, but instead work on projects and put their shoulders to the wheel in order to make transitions possible. Boer&Croon has as its motto: Get it Done, and that really suits me to a T. I get my energy from working with people, showing them that speck on the horizon and getting them on board with my story to get there.' 'At Boer&Croon, I can work with clients to build up the innovative capacity of their team and organisation. In the first instance, this is done by listening carefully to what is needed where, and then combining that with my insight into innovation processes. Next, we bring this knowledge in, set up the process and train the innovation team. This is the way you achieve long-lasting results.'
Methodology: Value Adding and Implementation Process
PHASE 0 PROBLEM DEFINITION
PHASE 1 INNOVATION SCAN
PHASE 2 VALUE OF THE INNOVATION
PHASE 3 FEASIBILITY
PHASE 4 PREPARATION
PHASE 5 PILOT
PHASE 6 EVALUATION OF THE PILOT
PHASE 7 UPSCALING
This innovation process offers a great deal of support and structure to almost everyone who is willing to innovate. It boosts the chances of success of innovation processes and partnerships. I feel that I am really leaving something of lasting value behind once I leave after an implementation project. But I never really lose sight of anyone; fortunately, I regularly meet up with them, for example, in the peer review group Quartermasters of Innovation, something I recently initiated.