Civic innovation is a subject that is near and dear to us at Humantific and we digest a lot of material being generated in the media on a regular basis. There is no question that interest in the subject of civic innovation continues to rise. As practitioners working in the real world with client organizations we don’t always get a chance to comment on everything we see in the media.
We do see momentum building towards a better understanding of the many challenges surrounding civic innovation and thats good news. As various interest groups weigh in to contribute perspectives the landscape of what is known and what is in progress, ie not yet resolved becomes more clear.
Often being presented under different themes, one common thread across many civic innovation initiatives are the stated goals of achieving/building adaptability, agility, flexibility, resilience, fluency, fluxability, adaptive capacity. As an objective this is not so different from many large business organizations today operating in a continously changing world.
At Humantific we are particularly interested in views related to the leadership skills behind those stated goals. How are civic innovation leaders operationalizing adaptabilty? What are the skills and tools that enable adaptability, resilience, etc.?
What we notice is that currently there are many different perspectives on what skills are needed to be a Civic Innovation Leader today. Not all of them are crystal clear….:-) Some perspectives describe what they think a Chief Innovation Officer should be able to do and other views describe specific skill sets. Many focus on content knowledge.
A recent news-type article by Jeffrey Stinson’ is an example of the former. Being a journalist not a practioner Jeffrey went out and talked with some folks involved in the civic innovation arena. He then wrote the blog post entitled “Do Chief Innovation Officers Deliver?” and posted it on The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Stateline site.
Based on the input that Jeffrey received he describes these 10 attributes of a Chief Civic Innovation Officer in terms of tasks to be undertaken as follows:
- “Serve as catalyst to transform how government operates within budget constraints.
- Oversee information technology by incorporating digital data to analyze problems and assess solutions.
- Bring original problem-solving skills.
- Revolutionize how government operates to devise better, thriftier and longer-term solutions for citizens and taxpayers.
- Need acknowledgement by mayor to challenge the status quo up and down the bureaucratic ranks.
- Attract successful people from private sector to devote time to public service.
- Ability to generate ideas as well as capacity to execute them.
- Strategize, seek possible solutions and enlist outside help to tackle issues.
- Assess data, harness government employees to achieve goals and measure how well government is doing.
- Have an innovation capacity.”
While we agree with many of the above tasks, the general statements such as “Bring original problem-solving skills”, “harness government employees to achieve goals” and “incorporating digital data” could, from our perspective, use a little more shape in order to be actionable..:-) The notion of “Bring” suggests that the skills already exist somewhere, presumably in the Chief Civic Innovation Officer.
What we often find today is that Civic Innovation Labs could use some help in this regard, especially if the mandate is to get up and running in a timely way. The truth is Civic Innovation Skill-Building Programs take time to research and develop thus we are sometimes asked to help in this direction. We accelerate the onboarding of civic innovation skill-building. In addition, as part of the HumanCities Collaborative we collectively bring to bear additional services related to operationalizing civic innovation inside city governments.
Humantific’s 10 Key Chief Civic Innovation Officer Skills:
We recognize that today Chief Innovation Officers are arriving from many different backgrounds. Fundamental to what Humantific believes to be key skills of a Chief Innovation Officer is to distinguish between content knowledge and process knowledge. In doing so we recognize that one is not the other. Having deep content knowledge does not translate to also having deep innovation process skills. In different ways both are needed. Among a diverse group of civic innovation leaders many types of content knowledge backgrounds might exist.
- A strong content knowledge. This can be based in business, engineering, design, science, technology, government, etc. This forms the basis of the content knowledge, recognizing that content knowledge is not process knowledge. The process knowledge of cocreation skills are built on this strong basic content knowledge foundation.*
- Advanced knowledge and strategy for civic innovation capacity building.
- Advanced knowledge of multi-disciplinary cocreation, innovation, problem-solving process skill.
- Orientation towards human-centered empathy.
- Advanced knowledge of upstream, real-time cocreated challenge-framing skill.
- Advanced knowledge of observational innovation research.
- Knowledge of how to integrate visualized data and information into the innovation cycle.
- Advanced knowledge of facilitative approach to leadership.
- Advanced knowledge of thinking style impact / cognitive surfacing.
- Advanced knowledge of multi-constituent team dynamics orchestration.
* Years of real world practical experience in various leadership roles can also be factored into the knowledge foundation on which to build advanced process skills.
In our Complexity Navigation Program we teach these skills to civic innovation leaders..:-)