Search the word innovation on the internet and you’ll get millions of hits, 490 million to be exact. Reading through some of the articles and definitions one thing becomes clear, innovation for the most part, doesn’t happen by accident. It takes time, thought and deliberate action.
The City of Mississauga has chosen to do just that. Mississauga is being intentional about innovation and leading the way when it comes to innovation in municipal government. They have developed and put in place a model to solve problems, encourage collaboration and drive innovative change – and the impacts are being felt across the organization.
It is a grass roots approach that is changing the corporate culture and integrating innovation into daily work practices. The key elements include training staff in different business areas as internal innovation coaches and facilitators, creating an all-staff innovation community of practice, using facilitated strategic planning tools and holding unique learning events.
The internal innovation coaches participate in an on-going training program around the concepts of innovation and are provided with tools to drive innovation. They commit up to 35 hours per year to coach and facilitate within their teams and throughout the organization. Employees are eager to participate and the City benefits from having in-house expertise.
In addition to training innovation coaches and facilitators, the City also created an Innovation Community of Practice. This opportunity is open to anyone at any level in the organization. Meetings are held bimonthly and offer staff the opportunity to collaborate, share ideas and learn from each other.
According to Karyn Stock MacDonald, the City’s Lead Business and Innovation Coach, “Meeting agenda topics range from sharing of innovation successes, to generating new ideas, to solving problems, to encouraging collaboration in all areas of our organization. Staff attending feel it’s a great learning environment and currently there are more than 100 members in the Innovation Community of Practice.”
Another way the City is being intentional about innovation is by using a variety of tools. City staff learn about and use these tools to infuse creativity and innovation into projects, processes and discussions. Many of the tools, such as “ToP” (Technology of Participation) and LEAN are recognized worldwide; they enable groups to quickly and systematically address key issues and result in focused plans. These approaches assume that everyone has a piece of the puzzle and every person can make a valuable contribution. The result is that you get innovative strategies and participants are committed and ready to implement changes.
The City of Mississauga is taking innovation from an idea to an in-grained way to work; building and infusing it into all aspects of business. One of the most successful ways this is happening is through learning opportunities. Each year, the City hosts an internal Innovation Series open to everyone in the organization that includes panel discussions, open houses, key note speakers, innovation and facilitation training sessions, world cafés and facility tours. The Series brings the concept of innovation to life and puts it into practical examples that showcase how to be
intentional. It demonstrates how individuals can use it in their own day-to-day work environments.
Innovation can be defined many ways but the basic premise is that it’s about looking at new and better ways of doing things and focussing on continuous improvement. Every day, the City of Mississauga is putting this into action, challenging staff to be innovative in their thinking around how they deliver their programs and services internally and to the citizens of Mississauga. And according to Karyn Stock MacDonald “It’s working! The City of Mississauga is building itself a strong reputation as an innovative organization; one that others are looking at to learn from and emulate. We’re being asked to participate in panels and we’re receiving calls from cities and municipalities across Canada and the United States wanting to learn from us.”
The City of Mississauga intends to continue being intentional about innovation – utilizing internal innovation coaches and facilitators, growing its Innovation Community of Practice and continuing to stay current and a leader on innovation best practices, tools and approaches.
To learn more about the City of Mississauga’s Innovation model, please contact Karyn Stock-MacDonald, Business and Innovation Coach at the City of Mississauga. firstname.lastname@example.org