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Jordanian public sector as an innovator

Amman
(File photo: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)
Amman

Yusuf Mansur

The writer is CEO of the Envision Consulting Group and former minister of state for economic affairs.

A most fundamental question emerging in innovation research is why some organizations innovate while others do not.

Innovation has traditionally been studied in the private sector. It is only recently that some research has been addressing innovation in a public sector context. Given the size of the public sector relative to the economy in Jordan, the variety of its organizations, and the fact that there is a new vision for economic modernization, addressing what would make organizations in the public sectors innovate is a vital and timely undertaking.اضافة اعلان

A good example of innovation in the public sector is the introduction of new or significant changes to the provision of services and goods, operations, organization, or communication. Innovations need not be developed by the organization itself, but simply applied or implemented by it.

To begin with, one should recognize that public sector innovation is often seen and assessed through private sector frameworks and paradigms. Basic economic theory states that private sector organizations maximize profits while public sector agencies focus on minimizing costs. Moreover, it is widely accepted that the public sector is less efficient than the private sector. This latter claim could be generally true, but not necessarily in all government agencies.

Factors that determine the level of innovation in the private sector, such as size, location, performance, and investment in human capital (training), can also be applied with some tweaking to public sector organizations.

In the public sector, innovation may respond to specific organizational and managerial conditions and practices. Managerial conditions that are conducive to innovation in public agencies include: sufficient space for experimentation, availability of clear and efficient feedback loops, effective response level to low performance, motivation to make improvements (reward systems), and budget constraints to drive efficiency (however, this is the least significant condition, according to the literature).
Basic economic theory states that private sector organizations maximize profits while public sector agencies focus on minimizing costs.
A good example comes from Australia, where the government not only allows its employees to experiment and innovate, but also established for them a framework to do so.

In Jordan, any initiative that focuses on enhancing innovation at public organization level must start there: at the organization level. Each organization has a unique work culture affected by location, structure, geography, placement within the bureaucratic hierarchy, function, etc.

The literature on innovation in the public sector underscores that the focus should be on the individuals’ interest in those organizations.  Consequently, public organizations should focus on the fundamental aspects of jobs, and increase the employees’ motivation to innovate through experimentation.

Providing motivation and experimentation to public sector employees will lead to greater innovation and job satisfaction. On the other hand, budget cuts are not recognized as a motivator to innovate, as the carrot is always a better motivator than the stick (which is the budget cuts here).

Based on the above, having a merit-based management system in the public sector is an important and necessary condition for enhancing innovation in the public sector, but it is not sufficient. Measures that specifically focus on enhancing the level of innovation are also vital for public sector innovation.


Yusuf Mansur is CEO of the Envision Consulting Group and former minister of state for economic affairs.


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