If you’ve been round bureaucracy for any length of time (and yes, folks, this includes anyone in the private, public or ‘third’ sector working for an organisation of any size) you’ll know how hard it is to get good ideas up from the bottom to the top. Toyota built its dominance on its capacity to harness ideas from the bottom. And policy competitions have been held in the Victorian public service to good effect in recent years, turning up some very good ideas I’m told. The reward? A couple of weeks off-line to further research the idea.
So I’m pleased to read about Shell’s Gamechanger program. From a blog I’ve just found when googling “public sector innovation” - It seems to be written from the Netherlands at a quick glance but it’s nice to see Australia featuring in quite a few posts - but I digress:
How about Shell and its Gamechanger-program? Big companies are not that different from government organisations in the sense that they have many management layers, a lot of formal rules and are dominated by the daily routine. Within big organisations it’s very hard to get good ideas from the bottom to the top, not to mention getting it from the top down to the bottom again. An inspired idea of a new possibility at the bottom of the organisation loses most of its originality and edge on the way up. Shell’s management knows that if it can’t tap into the knowledge and ideas of its people in its daily operations, the company has a serious problem. So it set up a program to get radical ideas from everybody inside (and even outside) the organisation and created a high speed track for those ideas.
Let’s say that you have a radical idea for Shell. You can submit that to the Gamechanger-program via a website. A small team that reports directly to the CEO Jeroen van der Veer assesses the potential. If they like your idea you have a meeting with them within two weeks after your submission. If they like you they will give you budget to further develop your idea into a “proof of concept”.
Depending on how promising and big the idea is, the Gamechanger-people will bring you to the right executive people directly and you get a chance to pitch. Shell puts around 45 million euros into the Gamechanger program every year, about 10 per cent of its total R&D budget. One of the strongest indications that it’s working: middle management hates it.
Looking at Shell’s Gamechanger webpage, it looks like Gamechanger is open to all, not just those in Shell’s workforce. In any event, as the post observes:
It wouldn’t be hard to set up a Gamechanger-equivalent in the public sector. If you’re a politician or public manager, create a way for the really smart civil servants to escape from the formal hierarchy that you are responsible for. Find a way to select the best ideas, invite the people directly to your table, give them a budget to test those ideas and support them during the testing. There are a lot of entrepreneurial minds working in the public sector, but we hardly have ways to tap into them.
To which I say - both “hear hear”, and “here here”.