Design thinking for Local Authorities

This morning at the Sandyford Innovation Forum Philomena Poole, Chief Executive of dlr County Council highlighted the importance of data-driven innovation.

In her bubbly speech, Philomena used a simple but effective example to explain the reason behind the conservative approach of local authorities ‘’there better be only one green light in a crossroad ’’, no space for mistakes in there! How not to agree with that.

While this way of reasoning is logical, focuses on the solution of the problem rather than the problem itself.

The power of creativity is that enables us to overcome the ‘solution trap’ in this case the traffic light as a way to think about traffic.

There is no amount of data that will suggest us to create a roundabout (or any alternative solutions, which are plenty) rather than a crossroad.

Philomena is right; data is a powerful tool to drive incremental innovation, in other words, refining a current solution, but it falls short when thinking about a new interpretation of the problem.

Local Authorities can become less conservative by focusing on the problem first, then prototype different solutions and invite local citizens to provide constructive feedback on it.

A participatory system outperforms a hierarchical and conservative one.

Few points of reflections for Local Authorities:

  1. Embracing creativity starts by thinking, therefore it doesn't put anyone at risk, no multiple green lights.

  2. An innovating problem-solving is based upon problem-finding, which is, unfortunately, a constantly overlooked step.

  3. Participation and feedback not only suggest improvements and point for reflections but also creates alignment among citizens.

Change is difficult because it requires a shift in the way we look at things; I’m confident that more and more Local Authorities are on the right track to embrace creativity and design to accelerate it.

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