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Sketchnote from Towards a Unified Theory of Shiny New Things

Shiny and new – why are these still words for government innovation?

Posted on by Stephen Collins in Posts | 6 Comments

Last Friday, I attended DesignGov‘s event Towards a Unified Theory of Shiny New Things, largely as a catch-up on where open government, design thinking and government innovation are at in the Australian Public Service. I’ve been busy with private sector clients of late, and I was feeling a little rusty. I was hoping for some fresh ideas, evidence of substantial activity, an evolution of attitude towards government innovation, and some maturity around perceptions towards design thinking. Taking the glass half-full perspective, I’ve got to say I was delighted to see a significant number of new faces among the 70 or so people there. Naturally, there were a significant number of the old hands in the room as well, and that’s as it should be; you want a mix of experience and those for whom these ideas are new at any event, else you risk becoming an echo chamber. Helping the newer …

Innovation by hyoin min on Flickr

GovCamp 2013 – Where and how does government innovation happen?

Posted on by Nathanael Boehm in Posts | 2 Comments

At GovCamp Australia 2013 this week, there were two identifiable two groups of people who presented and talked about the topics of inspiring government innovation, empowering people and liberating capability. There were the service designers who spoke about the specifics of design and presented case studies, and the managers, public servants and academics who talked about innovation (in the abstract). How important is design to innovation? As a designer myself I strongly believe in the utility of design thinking and I wish the methods and techniques I use on a daily basis were part of the standard toolkit for those in government responsible for policy design and service delivery. But I fear that too much emphasis is being put on design when we talk about innovation in government and that there are other disciplines that should be represented. The other issue is that no one can actually pin down what …

Marshmallow challenge at Pollenizer

Core questions for service design

Posted on by Stephen Collins in Posts | 3 Comments

As a service designer, I’ve been involved in building the way a significant number of programs, products and tools hang together. And, as someone who works relatively often with government, where many agencies, policies, regulation and in the end, people, need to come together to make something happen, I’m usually called upon to deal with complex issues. It often the case that the people I’m dealing when designing services, particularly, just don’t know where to start. It all looks too hard. Over time, I’ve developed a set of questions I use to help me understand what’s happening (versus why it’s happening) as I go through a discovery process when doing service design work. These questions are focussed on activities rather than values, motivation or what someone wants to achieve (the why questions). Those value-based questions are a whole other part (though not separate from this part) of the design process. I’ll post …

Billy Bragg, Speakers' Corner, London, 7 February 2010 by ed_needs_a_bicycle, on Flickr

More “not invented here” – on design thinking and Australia

Posted on by Stephen Collins in Posts | 2 Comments

When I was on my recent trip to Japan and Korea, I came across an article in the Financial Times describing Australia’s reticence in adopting design thinking in business. The article itself is a high-level summary of research done at MGSM by Dr Lars Groeger and Leanne Sobel. It’s a little chilling when you read things like: “The results demonstrate that businesses in [Australia] are often unaware of how design thinking can help with innovation. The study also revealed that even when businesses are aware of the potential benefits of design thinking, they struggle to recruit appropriately skilled staff in Australia.” I’m not at all surprised by the first sentence, but I’m singularly irritated by the second. Let’s leave aside the matter of Australian business not yet understanding what benefits design thinking can bring, as it’s addressed in the paper, and, well, we could talk about it forever. However, let’s look directly …

Stephen Collins (Credit: The Canberra Times, Daniel Spellman)

Stephen Collins – a philosophy of passion

Posted on by Stephen Collins in Posts | Comments Off on Stephen Collins – a philosophy of passion

It’s a bit about self-indulgent, but yesterday, The Canberra Times ran a feature on acidlabs’ founder, Stephen Collins, touching on his work, his passions and the creation of TEDxCanberra. It particularly looks at Stephen’s low-key, empowering style of leadership; it’s an unusual approach in a world full of ducks-in-a-row delivery managers. If you’d like to get a little deeper inside the mind of one of Canberra’s big ideas people, you should read the article.

Galen Hooks at TED 2010

Galen Hooks of LXD on dancing at TED

Posted on by Stephen Collins in Posts | Comments Off on Galen Hooks of LXD on dancing at TED

Creativity, innovation and inspiration comes in many forms. It doesn’t require a scientist or an inventor or an ethicist. Sometime, the sheer pleasure of being present to the thing you love doing most makes for the most transcendent of moments. Here, Galen Hooks of The LXD, one of my favorite dance crews, speaks of dancing at TED 2010. She’s obviously deeply moved, even a year after the experience. She understands the power of the thing she does and how it can affect people. Watch. Enjoy.

Looking at things differently

Creative work can be measured! Just not like that

Posted on by Nathanael Boehm in Posts | Comments Off on Creative work can be measured! Just not like that

Originally published on, this is the first ever guest post on acidlabs. Written by longtime acidlabs friend, Nathanael Boehm, it’s a fantastic reflection on creative and knowledge work and measuring its value. From time to time, with acidlabs’ focus shift for 2012, we’ll be publishing interesting content from guest writers. The other day I was reflecting on previous employment experiences and during that reflection I let loose on Twitter with some rather harshly-worded criticisms. I stand by those statements but I did feel to expand upon the topic and incorporate into it a question that was posed to me in a job interview recently “Describe the qualities of your ideal manager”. I want to be clear and say that I do not believe creative workers should be treated like primadonnas. I do not believe that creative workers should be afforded any more rights or freedoms than other workers. I …

Screaming girl

Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result – the Hoyts cinemas customer experience

Posted on by Stephen Collins in Posts | 14 Comments

In an interesting confluence of circumstances, I responded to a battle cry for change in business and an experience of failure to change and the resulting poor customer experience. Earlier, business thinker, Tom Peters posted this tweet: For those going back to work Monday: P-L-E-A-S-E …. do some-one-thing out of the ordinary. — Tom Peters (@tom_peters) January 2, 2012 To which I responded: Or we wash-rinse-repeat-fail -> RT @tom_peters: For those going back to work Monday: P-L-E-A-S-E …. do some-one-thing out of the ordinary. — Stephen Collins (@trib) January 2, 2012 Today, many organisations need to dramatically change the way they function in order to provide a truly better customer experience, in the sense outlined by another of the business thinkers I respect, Umair Haque, in his book Betterness (and its predecessor, The New Capitalist Manifesto). Later in the day, to avoid the 35-degree heat, I went to the cinema …

Open Government words tag cloud

Whither a federal Open Government policy

Posted on by Stephen Collins in Posts | Comments Off on Whither a federal Open Government policy

Fellow open government advocate, Craig Thomler, has asked a very important question in his latest post: I wonder, should Australian political parties have explicit policies for Open Government and Government 2.0 with commitments to the use of online media and support for online engagement by public servants? It’s a question I have also asked. In the light of NZ Labour’s recent policy declaration, which is fairly comprehensive, touching on technical and cultural matters, it’s high time major Australian parties did the same. In my view, Labor in this country has largely dropped the ball from a policy perspective since Lindsay Tanner was given the task of announcing the open government declaration. Sure, many agencies at several levels of government have been able to proceed and make real progress on their open government efforts, but there’s little or no overarching platform from the party perspective. The Liberal party is utterly MIA …

O hallowed democracy from barto on Flickr

ACT Government’s open government steps – a cart-horse issue?

Posted on by Stephen Collins in Posts | Comments Off on ACT Government’s open government steps – a cart-horse issue?

So, the ACT Government is finally making moves to open up and participate with its community and enacting some open government programs. We’ve already had the first Virtual Community Cabinet, which seemed to go okay (though I remain doubtful that Twitter is the right venue for this kind of thing). And this week, the Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher launched her blog (though I note the media release fails to have active links – a basic misstep). Something good that’s already happening is the Time to Talk site, inviting community input on ACT Government activities. It’s even inviting discussion about the proposed open government site that will be developed. But do we have a cart-horse issue here? The concept documents are certainly fine as they stand. My concern is that a concept document for a website doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of what’s needed. There seems to be a great …