In local authorities it is often true that an officer is firmly based in amongst his or her own team and any communication with other teams and other officers is almost purely transactional, and there are officers across authorities who may never get the chance for any interaction at all. This is much to the detriment of innovation and progress as there are millions of missed chances for collaboration up and down the country.
Steve Jobs, the mastermind behind two of the world's most succesful companies ever - Apple and Pixar - believed in the value of collaboration and, in particular 'unplanned collaboration', something in particular thay may be lacking at local authorities. He backed up his words with action and built a giant atrium at the HQ of Pixar, the company behind Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Cars, believing that the big open space would act as a natural meeting spot that could spark conversations that produce the next big idea, or the next small improvement. This communal space also ensured people who may never cross paths would also meet, something that is crucial. Different people will see things from different views, shaped by different experiences and when these differences collide they can spark brilliant new ideas. Local authorities would find it hard to completely replicate this given that staff are often diffused over a number of sites but the Town Hall tend to have the biggest bulk of staff and I have never experienced a 'melting pot' space at a Town Hall. This only encourages the 'silo' mentality that can stifle innovation and authorities should begin to plan in 'shared spaces' into their layout that encurage chance meetings.
As well as physical space for collaboration authorities need to produce a virtual space, not just an intranet accesible only from a fixed terminal PC but a space that employees can take everywhere with them so moments of inspirations are never lost and conversations can happen any time. The social media network Yammer, run by Microsoft, seems to be the prefect candidate to provide this virtual space. It is used by over 200,000 companies worldwide and the majoirty of Fortune 500 companies and allows employees from across an organisation, top to bottom, to talk, collaborate and exchange ideas at any time, from any smart device, PC or laptop. However local authorities are still in the habit of completley blocking all social media yet alone introducing one and actually encouraging staff to use it but is this approach costing them? It seems it could be, just imagine the conversations that could take place across all council departments if people could log on and join their group that wants to further the use of social media or find ways to reduce the carbon footprint of the Council no matter where they worked in the Council.
If this combination of new physical and virtual space can be introduced Councils stand to gain a lot. The resulting culture of collaboration will dirve innovation which is absolutely key to meeting the challenges of the years that lie ahead and the sooner conversations get started, the sooner these challenges can be met.