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What innovation sounds like

“Quiet in class!”. Silent attention to Teacher’s every word was the required mode of interaction when I was at school. Only speak when spoken to. Teachers themselves were judged by the quietness of their workspace; a noisy classroom meant they were not in sufficient control. All that seems to be changing. Prowling school inspectors now like to hear the babble of group interaction in a classroom. I learned this at a fascinating Demos workshop in London last week. Entitled Open Secrets, the workshop brought toghether 50-odd senior managers from the forefront of public sector innovation in contexts ranging from schools and hospitals to the police. The fact that we met in a delightful primary school in south London, and not in some grim seminar room, added to an upbeat atmosphere. The UK is at a interesting juncture right now. After years of intense research, reflection, and a mountain of policy documents, a lot of people now have a good idea of how public services might be organised differently. But there’s a palpable feeling now that insight and reports are the beginning, not the end, of the innovation process. Everyone is looking for ways to try things out in real situations.

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One Comment

  1. Prof Ron Glatter
    Posted September 14, 2005 at 19:34 | Permalink

    I wasn’t able to get to the seminar but I was interested in the above comment. People may “have a good idea of how public services might be organised differently” without knowing how to organise them better. The key debate is between the transformational once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity revolutionary view and the path of evolution and ‘reform by small steps’. In this country currently we seem to have a penchant for the former. Careers are tied up in it. But its relative effectiveness is dubious to say the least.

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