Tales of a Lone Innovatologist

Setting the PACE
Tales of a Lone Innovatologist

When I took this job, five years ago, the term “innovation practitioner” wasn’t in widespread use. The job posting was for an Innovation Analyst, with a job description that combined project management, training, change management, performance measurement to help drive innovation at the city.

The first thing that I did was a general scan – I talked to people at my municipality about innovation and what it meant to them and their work. I also participated on a cross-functional project related to strategic and business planning, which was a great way to see collaboration and organizational structure in action. These activities were an integral part of my Prepare stage – the position was new, so I didn’t have any existing work activities and business process to rely on, we were starting with a clean slate.

My next stage in developing my plan was to Assess. I keyed in on some areas of the business that stood out in the prepare stage and spent some more time getting to know how they did what they did. I talked to resources in other municipalities who were also taking on an innovation practitioner role, using contacts I found in the cross-municipal network I had joined. This network has been invaluable for learning, support, and feedback that sped up my program development phases by taking advantage of the experience of other practitioners and municipalities. In addition, I worked with a research colleague to do a cross-municipal scan of strategic planning models across Canada. The combination of local knowledge, cross-municipal contacts, and leading practice research was one I have repeated multiple times due to its effectiveness in creating a starting knowledge base.

Collaboration is a crucial requirement for innovation, so this was my next stage. I worked with a small group of city staff from across all divisions who were interested in becoming innovation coaches, and we did an innovation lab using the How Might We “How Might We support a culture of innovation at the City?” This collaboration created the program outline for the Innovatology program that we are currently using at the city. An essential step in our program was establishing a shared mission and vision, then creating definitions that we used to create an innovation lexicon for our city, developing a shared understanding of what we meant by innovation. We also developed targets for measurable outcomes to help us identify what success would look like for our program. This shared understanding was an important step in the Collaboration stage.

Finally, I started an Experimentation phase. We took some of the program ideas that came out of our Innovation lab, and starting prototyping and piloting these ideas to evaluate their impact on innovation, organisational culture and service delivery. Some of our pilots were implemented as program components, while others were adapted into other programs or business practices. Still others failed but taught us important things about our culture and organizational structure.

I used the PACE model to help me develop the idea for the Innovatology program into a workable business model, one that we continue to evolve and adapt to meet the changing business needs.

  • P – Prepare – research your environment, using a combination of methods
  • A – Assess – develop an understanding of your environment in the context of other examples, including leading practices
  • C – Collaborate – use diversity of knowledge, experience and passion to develop ideas into a program or business model based on a shared vision and mission with measurable outcomes
  • E – Experiment – just do it! Try things, explore options, measure outcomes!

What model do you use to create new initiatives in your work? How do you set the PACE for new pilots, projects and programs? Share your experience in our members’ forum.

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