20 April 2023 | Collaboration | Innovation | Our Work

View from the top: Cuckoos, a trip to London and innovation curiosity

Yesterday, I was in London, meeting with a private sector colleague.

Initially, we talked about the sector, how our roles had changed over the eight years I’ve known them. They were in the public sector, then moved to private sector; I moved from the private sector and have returned to a national level role working with government, councils, and other organisations.

We then got onto the subject of innovation in the sector. We agreed that when you stand back a great deal has changed, yet when you focus at a medium and micro level, some things have been slower to change or remain similar – budget scarcity, crumbling infrastructure, data fear and data blocking, digital obsolescence and whilst “region beta paradox” might more commonly be used in psychology circles there is an element of this, controversially, in some services.

My meeting was in Farringdon. A place where I started my national level career, after being in a range of frontline council services. The national level role involved working with government departments and councils bringing about good practice improvement and delivering large-scale knowledge transfer programmes. Farringdon has changed immeasurably since 2007, and yet its underlying character hasn’t changed. The essence of the place now blends old, modern, and future to great success, in my opinion.

And the cuckoo in the title of this piece? As I left my rural surroundings before travelling to London, I heard the cuckoo amongst the curlew and lapwings, all distinct voices to be sure. But, the cuckoo, with its habit of leaving eggs in other nests, has found a unique way to outsource its chick rearing. Innovation can be the same for highways sector.

There can be a perception that innovation is to be brought about by the supply chain, and yes that’s partly true. But, Innovation also starts with being open to trying things differently. Not for the sake of it, but as a result of being eternally curious about doing things better, more efficiently or adapting to changing digital, environmental and societal futures. I think being eternally curious is a very underrated skill in innovation, and something we should do if we are to embrace all that is coming.