Q2 with Atolagbe Alege Gambari

Atolagbe Alege GambariAtolagbe Alege Gambariis from Nigeria. He attended Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, Nigeria, from 1979 to 1982. In 2006 Mr. Gambari attended Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) Accra, Ghana.  He has also attended a number of skills development programs within and outside Nigeria. Mr. Gambari holds a Bachelor of Library Science Degree, Graduate Certificate in Education, (ABU 1982) and Master Degree in Public Sector Management (GIMPA 2006). Since 1983 to the present, Mr. Gambari has been a faculty member of The Administrative Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON). As a faculty member Mr. Gambari has worked in the various departments and he has taken part in the design, development and delivery of Training as well as Research and Consultancy. Today, Mr. Gambari is a Director of Studies in the Department of Research and Publications of the college. Apart from being a member of some professional bodies, Mr. Gambari has contributed  to knowledge through presentations of papers at national and international forums and he has published articles in academic journals.


Innovation refers to the introduction of something novel such as an idea, activity, initiative, structure, programme, or policy. In a public sector context it refers to the creation and implementation of new processes, policies, services and methods of delivery which result in significant improvements on the efficiency, effectiveness and quality of outcomes. By extension thus, open innovation is a paradigm shift and assumes that an organisation whether it is public or private can and should use both the external and internal ideas in order to achieve the set objectives. Today, the boundaries between an organisation and its environment have become more permeable and as such open innovations can easily transfer inward and outward. Perhaps the central idea behind open innovation is that, in a world of widely distributed knowledge, organisations (public sector inclusive) can no longer stand aloof.
To start with, innovation rarely occurs in isolation because it is a highly interactive process of collaboration across a growing and diverse network of stakeholders, institutions and users. Hence, open innovation for that matter, is anchored on a variety of actors and taps into innovation resources across borders, overcomes organisation’s cultural restrictions and creates broad political support for public innovation. In order to promote open innovation, the public sector should play the catalytic role by providing funds with the private sectors and developing key technologies. In addition, there is need to power innovation within the public sector itself in order to:
  • open radical productivity improvements and efficiency gains; and
  • foster the creation of more public value and a better response to societal challenges. 
This strategy can happen through a pervasive change of mindset, with more experimentation, controlled risk taking, and an agile and personalised response to new constituent challenges. This will help unleash the potential of an innovative public sector, which can be transformed into a much needed growth engine for the economy. Furthermore, the public sector can promote and adopt open innovation approaches through the identification, adoption, adaptation or re-engineering of ideas, technologies, processes or services from a wide range of sources within and outside of the government. This can be supported by emphasis on networks and communities of practice. In other words, government and community desire for more citizen-focused service delivery and for any meaningful open innovation to occur, the strategy should be geared towards social inclusion agenda by the public sector (Busarovs, A. 2013). The challenges are no doubt enormous, but can be surmounted through collaboration and partnerships across agencies. These agencies are located either within the public sector immediate environment or outside of it. In the context of the possible dynamic between innovation and social inclusion, it should be stressed that public organisations must be mindful as to whom, across the spectrum of society is gaining most and, gaining least from public sector open innovation (Pearce, J. M. (2012). For meaningful open innovation, the leaders should:
  • make the private sector as partner in progress;
  • adopt a culture of innovation and instil it into the administration of state government;
  • invest in new technologies;
  • improve speed of services; and
  • expand cross-jurisdictional collaboration. 
The open innovation paradigm can be interpreted to go beyond just using external sources but can be understood as the systematic encouragement and exploration of a wide range of internal and external sources. Open innovation offers advantages and disadvantages and some of them are:
  • Reduction in cost of conducting research and development
  • Potential for improvement in development productivity
  • Potential for synergism between internal and external innovations
  • Possibility of revealing information not intended for sharing
  • Potential for the hosting organization to lose their competitive advantage as a consequence of revealing intellectual property
  • Increased complexity of controlling innovation and regulating how contributors affect a project 

The global financial and economic crisis has accelerated the trend, spurring government into new, sometimes spectacular, attempts of reforming, restructuring and reorganising in the hope that these initiatives will bring about large- scale productivity gains. These and a number of other major driving forces are shaping the need for public sector innovation. Perhaps this scenario has elicited this question: ‘what are the most common challenges that a public sector institution might face while implementing an open innovation strategy and how to overcome them?’.
Managers in the public sectors face herculean challenges as regards implementation of open innovation for that matter. The challenges range from risk taking to maintaining the status quo and facilitating innovative and creative ideas. That is, the public service tends to have more emphasis on risk mitigation rather than outcomes because the sector operates within pre-set confines of rigid procedures, guidelines and policies which are alien to modern management techniques. That is, risk taking, creativity and even open innovation are stifled and discouraged among public servants. Another element of crucial importance is the continuing era of expenditure restraint, combined with increasing demands from the public for more programmes and services.
Open innovation in services is more difficult to define and identify but may be linked to institutional renewal, new forms of governance, changes in management techniques, the introduction of performance management or strategic planning and it occurs in a systemic context within and out of organisation. The internal drivers are manifested in an organisation’s strategy, climate, strategic leadership, entrepreneurship and organisational resources. The external drivers are political, economic, social, technological, ecological and legal factors. However, discussion shall be limited to some external drivers.
The organisation influences the external environment through innovations or added value for its stakeholders. Conversely, the organisation is influenced by the external environment - it creates new knowledge and information out of its analyses of the environment (Merx-Chermin and Nijhof 2005: 139). It should be noted however, that the forces in the external environment are so dynamic and interactive that the impact of any single element cannot be wholly dissociated from the impact of other elements. The leaders in the public sector should establish how those factors affect innovative activities positively.
Technological Environment:
Technological advances that have an impact on an organisation and its levels of automation, achievement and potential, provide a fertile ground for innovative activities that result in improved goods and services (Mulgan G, Albury D (2003). While technology and automation can reduce costs and open the door for innovations, they can also change the demand for services and products. For example, current demand for online services provided by government bodies to the general public has revolutionised the levels of products and services on offer.
Legal Environment:
In order to achieve an innovation-driven economy, the conversation should be an accelerated pace of competitive and sustainable industrial growth. The strategy should be geared towards industrial policy measure which will dismantle, reduce and minimise potential barriers, obstacles and restrictions.

Collaboration and Linkages:
Innovation rarely occurs in isolation; it is a highly interactive process of collaboration across a growing and diverse network of stakeholders, institutions and users. The strategy should be pivoted on collaborative innovation because it opens the innovation cycle to a variety of actors and taps into innovation resources across borders, overcomes cultural restrictions and creates broad political support open innovation in the public sector.
Managing open innovation is no doubt a complex task, and to surmount the complexity leaders should:
  • Ensure the need
  • Provide a plan
  • Build internal support for change and overcome resistance
  • Ensure top-management support and commitment
  • Build external support
  • Provide resources
  • Institutionalize change
  • Pursue comprehensive change