There are different ways of looking at public sector innovation. Going beyond the earlier classification of radical/disruptive and incremental/improvement innovation, the OECD developed their facets model.

The OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation Facets Diamond

Innovation is however a dynamic endeavour and looking beyond the kind of innovation one can embark on, it is also important to consider the intent. As such, within a developmental context, the following types of innovation can be distinguished:

While most would agree that innovation has a role to play in how government develops policy and delivers programs and services, it is a broad concept that can encompass a wide range of improvement concepts. Though no hard and fast definition for innovation exists, we believe it should be thought of in the following four groupings, covering what we do, how we do it, why we do it and within what constraints we function.

1       Service Delivery Innovation

Service innovation is about developing a new service concept or doing a step change improvement to an existing service. In the context of government, the primary goal of service innovation is to find creative new ways to offer and deliver services to citizens quickly in a manner that is easy to access, use and understand — and to do so in a cost-effective manner.

2.        Process Innovation

While many are familiar with process improvement concepts such as continuous improvement, process innovation has to do with rethinking an entire end-to-end process or with bringing a dramatic improvement to a valuable process segment. The primary goal of process innovation is to generate a notable increase in productivity or to drive down costs significantly.

3.        Regulatory Innovation

Regulations stem from the need to balance multiple interests. They maintain adequate balance of social, environmental and economic values, while allowing for economic development. Regulators develop and enforce regulations to protect the public and the environment, ensure industry does not waste resources, and ensure government receives any entitled royalties.

Regulatory innovation is about balancing the objectives of achieving regulatory effectiveness while not simply creating unnecessary burdens. Regulations must be synchronized with changes in the economic and social environment in order to stimulate the economy and economic growth and enable the private sector while adhering to Canadian policy. 

Many innovations in this space focus on the reduction of Red Tape.

4.        Policy Innovation

Policy innovation is about identifying the needs of constituents and shortening the time required to develop, test, implement and diffuse a policy. For instance, we are living in an environment where solutions for socio-economic issues are required at a faster pace, and shortening the time to develop and implement solutions is an imperative. The primary goal of policy innovation is to make timely — but still right — decisions regarding policies that affect government employees and citizens.

Policy innovation can also have a futures perspective. Looking beyond five-year planning cycles, it is critical to innovate towards the future we want. As such, anticipatory innovation should be equally pursued by public institutions.