Innovation is not limited to startups. Take, for example, the innovative DWP Digital lab. Few of us would automatically name such a large organization as the Department of Labor and Pensions, which has about 96,000 employees serving 20 million citizens, as an example of flexible, creative thinking. But his Innovation Lab brings forward-looking, innovative, experimental thinking to all its services to make them better for all its users – and that’s all we are. From claiming a pension to finding a job most of us at some point in our lives will find ourselves in those 20 million.
“For me, the Innovation Lab is a unique and safe place where we can research and test different ideas and concepts,” says product manager Maxine Paintein. “We are talking about creativity, networks and ecosystems. We are talking about solving problems – rethinking them, breaking them down and connecting to new and different solutions, which we discover through evidence of concepts and experiments. And it is about using the wider innovation ecosystem that exists in government, industry and academia to accelerate transformation and change. We are pushing the boundaries to accelerate the potential of new ideas. ”
So how does the Innovation Lab work? The project usually starts with a problem that is taken directly from the experience of these 20 million users. “For any large organization, it’s an inherent risk when you start thinking about a problem in terms of your own structures,” says Simon King, head of the user-centric design department. “Our approach means that we empathize with the citizen. We build our solutions and ways to deal with this empathy, involving citizens in joint decision-making. “
For example, you may be taking on care responsibilities for the first time, but are unaware of the support and benefits available. If you have access to the information you need, you are less likely to give up work or suffer from physical and mental stress – but finding it can be difficult. Once such a problem is identified, the team starts with a blank sheet of paper and looks for solutions. He then moves quickly. Using in-depth user research, the latest technology and all the experience it can gain from government and user groups, the team is creating a prototype to solve problems in just six to eight weeks.
Of course, technology is a big part of what an innovation lab does. Scanning the horizon of new technologies and thinking about how they can be used are a big part of the fundamental innovations that lead the role of Shruti Koli. For example, one of DWP Digital’s strategic objectives is more data-driven, but sharing sensitive data so that it can be analyzed is causing major problems. She is currently exploring the possibilities of synthetic data that does not reveal a person’s identity, which provides tremendous potential for analysis and learning while maintaining confidentiality.
There are no guarantees in such work, she notes – and that’s good. “An innovation laboratory is an uncertain environment. You’re trying to do something different that no one else is doing, and you’re doing it in six to eight weeks. It should be short and clear, because otherwise you will lose momentum and creativity. It’s also important to have a place where you don’t need to be 100% right all the time. The lab is an experimental space, a place where if you run a try and fail, you can just use the best parts and move on. ” But while new technologies are key, they are always the servant of the problem, not the master. “We bring the latest technology, but we’re not a technical playground,” King says. “The point of us is not in technology, but in how we can use technology in different ways to do something different for the user in the end.”
This is a place with great potential for the right people. “We want people who can do something creative, who don’t like to do the same thing all the time,” Koli says. “Collaborating and communicating with team members and stakeholders is key to working in such a flexible way.”
King says he is proud that the Innovation Lab is made up of different people with different ages, backgrounds, ethnicities and life experiences. “We need such diversity, so we represent the people for whom we are solving the problem. But different perspectives also have a great alchemy when it comes to innovation. ”
The lab seeks skills: holistic service development, data science, experience and innovation development. But empathy is also key, Paintein says. “If you are interested in people, in innovation and in improving things, and you have sets of professional skills and digital and data skills combined with innovative experience, we have great opportunities for you. But you also need a desire to improve and do better, as well as an understanding and awareness of the problems and pain points for the citizens we serve. ”
The UK is changing fast, and DWP is changing along with it. It has ambitious and transformative plans to improve services, and the Innovation Lab will play an important role in the future. “We solve really big problems that are really important,” King says. “We want people who want to do something important with their skill set. And I can’t think of anything more important than the services we provide to so many people in the UK. “
Ready to make a change? Learn more about the range of roles and capabilities available in DWP Digital