Lessons from Holland

The level of innovation in Dutch government institutions is higher than reported by the Nordic countries Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland. Image of The Hague by R Boed via Flickr

The government needs innovation to streamline business processes, improve services, and increase employee satisfaction. But this is much easier said than done. We look at lessons from the Netherlands – including cultivating a climate for innovation and accepting that failure is part of the cycle – and look at why business with foreign partners is lost.

The 2021 National Government’s First Innovation Barometer shows that 85% of government organizations implemented one or more innovations in 2019 or 2020.

The study – conducted by the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations with the support of the Public Prosecution Department Association – included representatives of national government ministries, affiliated administrative bodies, municipalities, water boards, national museums and other institutions, and a questionnaire.

For research purposes, the Dutch government has adopted the OECD definition of public sector innovation by the OECD Public Sector Innovation Observatory – implementing new approaches and applications that create public value – and focusing on product, service and business innovation. and interaction with citizens.

According to the report, the level of innovation in Dutch government organizations is higher than what Scandinavia, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland have reported in similar studies. In those countries, between 77% and 81% of government organizations implemented innovations in the same two years.

So, what makes the government in the Netherlands better at implementing innovation? How do the results compare to the results of the World Government Forum? Responsive government survey

Due to the timing of the scale, a high percentage of innovations have emerged as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including enabling civil servants and civil servants to work effectively from home and ensuring that some government jobs and regulatory services continue due to closures. These innovations include a digital portal that provides healthcare providers, health insurers, and other stakeholders with insight into healthcare capacity, online court hearings, and virtual tours of national museums.

Read more: Necessity is the mother of innovation: Turning burning platforms into platforms for reform

But there was also a wide range of innovations in the Netherlands that were not directly linked to the epidemic. These include:

  • A digital registry that provides companies with up-to-date information on applicable licenses and regulations
  • Interactive interface for job seekers
  • Calculation tool for calculating the highest fire risk in the next 8 hours
  • A public-private partnership between the Water Council and Horticultural Scientists, in which the former – using weather forecasts and a signaling system – can store excess rainwater in their tanks and make it available for irrigation in dry weather
  • Using drones – in real time or using imaging – for inspection and surveillance in rural areas
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In the Dutch government innovation scale The report makes special comparisons with Denmark. For example, a similar study found that innovations in Denmark are often the result of external incentives, such as laws and regulations, restructuring and austerity. Meanwhile, in the Netherlands this is often due to the organizations themselves discovering opportunities – often supported by knowledge of successful innovations in other organizations or by insight into new technologies.

The scale shows that process innovation was the most common type – implemented in 76% of cases – followed by interaction with citizens (61%), services (52%), and products (39%).

In terms of results achieved through innovation, efficiency increased 65%, followed by improvement in quality (60%), increased employee satisfaction (42%), achievement of political goals (39%), citizens and customers had the greatest impact. (29%).

By way of comparison: Denmark seems to focus more on improving quality.

Technology has been an important part of innovation in nearly 60% of Dutch government affairs. And in 67% of cases, the technology used was either completely new to the organization or used in a radically different way.

Most of the innovations – 48% – are inspired by others but adapted to the organizations’ own purposes, while 30% were developed from scratch by the organization.

Innovations often involve cooperation, often with private sector companies (48%), but also with other government organizations (35%), citizens and customers (24%) and to a lesser extent foreign partners (9%).

The research shows that 60% of Dutch government institutions share knowledge and actively disseminate information about innovation.

Cultivating a ‘strong innovation climate’ – and accepting mistakes

The research found that organizations’ innovation capacity varies widely, even among those with similar tasks and size “suggesting that innovation capacity has more to do with organizational culture than external conditions.”

“The organizational climate is critical,” she says. “Organizations with a strong innovation climate innovate more often, on a larger scale, and with greater success.”

In practice, the most successful government organizations have a “coherent approach to innovation at the enterprise level”. In addition, innovation is “carried out more naturally” by teams with a broad range of knowledge and skills, and organizations that accept that innovation involves risks. “The main difference between organizations with a strong innovation climate and organizations with a limited innovation climate is the way they deal with errors… Investing in a safe learning climate is critical. Governance and policy must make room for innovative experiments and accept that they can fail.” , as he says in the report.

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This is consistent with the results of the Governmental Survey responding to the World Government Forum. Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, GGF and PA Consulting conducted a survey of more than 850 officials in nine countries to assess confidence in the speed of the civil service and its response to change. The output report It appeared in January of this year.

Read more: Seven things we learned from the Responsive Government Survey

Similar to the Dutch government survey, it also found that there is a culture of health risk in government organizations in the Netherlands, with respondents not agreeing with the possibility of experimentation, where employees are proactively encouraged or rewarded for seeking opportunities for positive change, even if there is a risk of failure. .

However, the GGF survey also found that only a third of civil service leaders agreed to give people time to pursue new ideas and solutions, and half disagreed. However, according to the Barometer, innovations are often launched by employees and organization managers, indicating that they are adept at generating ideas to improve processes and services, even if they are not given enough time to do so in addition to their primary tasks.

Staff contribution has been one of the main drivers of innovation, along with a combination of team skills, knowledge, organizational and business collaboration, and new technologies. On the other hand, factors that stood in the way of innovation were financial resources, limited laws and regulations, and a strong focus on business continuity.

Organizations should invest in acquiring a commodity [innovation] Examples,” the report reads. “These could be examples from our private sector, or from other government sectors, but they could also be obtained from abroad.”

In summary, the report found that “collaboration, external mentoring, and employee networks are essential to achieve innovation” and stressed the importance of sourcing good examples of innovation from business, other government sectors, or from outside.

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A crisis of confidence?

The results of the GGF Government Response Survey (RGS) seem to support the results of the country-produced metric in many respects, particularly showing that Dutch organizations are confident in their ability to adapt to change, which sometimes also includes innovation. But there are differences, too.

RGS results show that the Dutch generally believe that adapting to change is part of their long-term strategy, with more than 80% of respondents agreeing.

Read more: ‘Explosions and explosions of creativity’ and smart risk management: lessons from responsive governments

Additionally, in line with the scale, the majority (72%) of Dutch RGS respondents agreed that their organizations excel at learning and responding quickly to meet the evolving needs of citizens and end users. However, there is a caveat – perhaps surprisingly, only half of the officials agreed with this statement, a lower proportion than leaders in any of the other eight countries surveyed (Australia, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom), and the states United).

One finding from RGS that appears to contradict those of the barometer is technology and digital. Although the Barometer found that innovations often have a significant technical component, none of the Dutch leaders who participated in the RGS agreed that “digitalism is an integral part of developing new policies and services” and only a third agreed. The technology we use is efficient collaboration and solution delivery is available or can be developed in a timely manner to meet our requirements. “

In general, many Dutch government organizations seem to have developed an atmosphere that encourages innovation. What is clear from the Barometer is that innovation is often driven by the employees themselves and by collaboration with other organizations.

But there is one key area that has been marked as a missed opportunity. “It has become clear that organizations are often inspired by good practices in their own country, but not much is done with good practices from abroad. They deserve more attention, because obviously a lot can be learned in this way.” says the report.

If you would like to share an innovation from your government or organization that may be useful to your colleagues abroad, leave a comment below or send an email [email protected]

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Megan Vasquez

"Creator. Coffee buff. Internet lover. Organizer. Pop culture geek. Tv fan. Proud foodaholic."

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