Building a Future-Focused Innovative Public Service: The Kenyan Experience

Mr Juma Gabriel Okumu, Deputy Director Training and Development, Public Service Commission (Kenya)Mr Juma Gabriel Okumu, Deputy Director Training and Development, Public Service Commission (Kenya) holds a Master  of  Education  Degree in Planning and Economics of Education from Maseno University (2004), and a Bachelor of Education Degree from Moi University (1992). After graduating from Moi University, he was employed as a graduate teacher by the Teachers Service Commission, (between March 1992 and November 1998), rising to the position of Deputy Head Teacher. The Public Service Commission appointed Mr Juma to  the  position  of  Inspector of Schools I (Ministry of Education) between November 1998 and February 2004, and in March 2004 he was appointed Chief Examinations Officer. Mr Juma rose through the ranks to the position of Director Examinations. Due to the restructuring of the Commission in 2013, he was appointed Deputy Director Training and Development in July 2013. Mr Juma has presented papers at international conferences, some of which have been published in renowned journals such as the Ugandan Journal of Management and Public Policy Studies Volume 10 (1) of March 2016.


Innovation is derived from the Latin word “Innovare” meaning, “to make something new” and connotes mankind’s reaction to incessant change. Innovation can be defined as the process of improving, adapting or developing a product, system or service to deliver better results and create value for people (Partnership for public service, 2012; Sarrat, 2012; OECD/Eurostat, 2005). Similarly, Simmie, Sennet, Wood and Hart (2002) define it as a commercially successful exploitation of new technologies, ideas or methods through the introduction of new products or processes, or through the improvement of existing ones, while the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2007) defines innovation as the implementation of new or significantly improved products (goods or services), or a new organisational method in business practices, work place organisation or external relations. On the other hand, Carlson and Wilmont (2006) define innovation as the process of creating and delivering new values to the customer in the market place.
Other scholars such as Frenz and Oughton (2005) opine that innovation is about delivering change and the successful exploitation of new ideas to provide economic or social value, change in the products or services that an organisation offers and change in the ways in which they are created and delivered. Further, Zaltman et al. (1973) view innovation as the outcome from the creation and exploitation of new ideas, improvement of existing ideas and their diffusion to new firms and institutions, while Schumpeter (1934) describes innovation as the carrying out of a new combination of production means, which includes the introduction of new goods, new methods and new markets.
According to Ahmed (1998) innovation is the process of commercialising one or more ideas that can be exchanged for something of economic or competitive value while Rogers & Kim (1985) described innovation as anything perceived to be new by the people doing it.
It is clear from the aforementioned that despite the attempt by various scholars to define the concept, there is still no consensus about the meaning of the term. Thus, understanding the whole concept remains difficult despite the increase in its importance (Szmytkowski, 2005). In support of this view, Ismail et al., argue that the innovation process remains a complex phenomenon with many variables at play in determining its process.
Innovation, therefore, refers to two processes of change in an organisation or society. First, innovation is about doing old things in new and better ways to meet organisational or societal challenges (Adair, 2007; Olaopa, 2009). Secondly, it also refers to putting new ideas into useful practice (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) 2007). In the words of John Adair (2007) innovation “combines two major overlapping processes: having new ideas and implementing them”.
For this paper, innovation is defined as the creation and implementation of a new idea in a social context with the purpose of delivering commercial benefits. It applies to products, services, business processes and models, marketing and enabling technologies. From the above definitions it is clear that an innovation must be implemented; it must be novel, either by being entirely new or representing a significant improvement; it should lead to better public service results including efficiency, effectiveness and user or employee satisfaction (OECD, 2014; OECD/Eurostat, 2005; Bloch & Bugge, 2013). Innovation has been identified as a key catalyst for growing economic productivity, driving enterprise, creating new products and markets and improving efficiency, delivering benefits to firms, customers and society in general (HM Treasury, 2000).

Albert Einstein had it right when he said: “We cannot solve our problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” In other words, organisations and people must evolve their thinking and try new things if they are to survive and grow. In other words, they must innovate. Innovation is the sine qua non in today’s businesses. Businesses that fail to innovate run the risk of losing ground to competitors, losing key staff or simply operating inefficiently. To successfully innovate, a business should anticipate future trends and develop an idea, process, tool, product or service that allows them to meet future demand rapidly and effectively (Ndungu, Daily Nation, 8 February 2016). A number of factors distinguish the public from the private sector in terms of innovation. The key difference is that public sector organisations in principle do not operate in a market-based framework and are thus not driven by profit seeking motives. Consequently, Kelly et al. (2002) identify three forms of value creation in the public sector namely services, social outcomes and trust (Carter & Markus, 2013).
Some of the mega trends impacting public service include citizen awareness and increasing demand for public services, the efficiency agenda due to global recession, and demographic change among others.
Citizen awareness has become a powerful force for change in Africa’s public sector. Greater understanding of rights and responsibility, better access to information through technology, and higher expectations of service levels are all challenging the status quo. In support of this, Mucheru (PWC 2014) argued that citizens expect quicker delivery and more individualized services and are therefore calling for increased transparency and accountability.
Another key factor driving the public sector innovation agenda in recent years is the efficiency agenda, with cost savings as a key policy objective. Given today’s budgetary constraints, employees and their agencies are being asked to deliver more with fewer resources. Innovation has thus become a critical factor in achieving improved performance (Nolan).
Organisational performance cannot withstand indifference to innovation. In both the private and public sectors, organisations that consistently generate and execute new ideas tend to be more effective at achieving their goals (Sarrat, 2012). In the private sector, innovation offers companies the means to achieve competitive advantage in the market as a way to support profit generation, while public sector organisations should innovate in order to improve service delivery (OECD, 2014).
Globally the developed world’s population is aging, and the developing economies (e.g. in Africa) have a younger population of workers and consumers who are shaping the global outlook for growth. This trend has important implications for public sector organisations across the continent. This demographic change is manifested through a shift in mindset, attitude, knowledge and values. With the rise of Generation I, which is an individualistic, informal, interactive, informed and innovative group, younger members of society want to interact with the public sector through new and different channels and their expectations are more immediate (PWC, 2014).
These mega trends are impacting governments and the public sector in Africa, many of which are responding by developing plans for inclusive, future-focused service delivery. Consequently, tomorrow’s public sector organisations must respond to mega trends quite differently and similar to living organisms that adapt to change, create prototypes and evolve to address society’s needs (PWC, 2014).

Public sector innovation can be defined as the implementation by a public sector organisation of new or significantly improved operations or products (OECD, 2012). Similarly, Rogers (2003) and Osborne & Brown (2005) define innovation in the public sector as the introduction of new elements into a public service in the form of new knowledge, a new organisation and or new management of processual skills, which represents discontinuity with the past. Thus according to them, innovation is not merely about getting a new idea but that it also has to be used in practice.
On the other hand Moore et al. 1997 define public sector innovation in terms of novelty and the degree of change in relation to the organisation, while Mulgan (2007) opines that public sector innovation is about new ideas that work at creating public values. The ideas have to be at least in part new; they have to be taken up and they have to be useful and implementable.
Thus, innovation in government is about creating new ways to improve agency performance, solve problems, accomplish goals and better meet the needs of the citizens. According to Mulgan & Albury (2003) innovation in the public sector should: involve the application of new ideas to improve performance and increase public value – this is the value that an organisation contributes to society; respond to the expectations of citizens and adapt to the needs of users; increase service efficiency; and minimize costs.
Each public innovation is aimed at addressing a public policy challenge and a successful public innovation is one that achieves the desired public outcome. There are two aspects of innovation that are important to future public bodies: operational at the level of service delivery; and strategic, in terms of local, regional or national innovation (OECD, 2014).
In the recent past, innovation in the public sector has gained an increased interest from scholars and practitioners (Damanpour et al., 2009; Borins, 2014; Hartley et al., 2013; Brown & Osborne, 2013; Walker, 2014; Osborne & Brown, 2011). Many embrace the idea that innovation can contribute to improving the quality of public services as well as enhancing the problem solving capacity of governmental organisations to deal with societal challenges (Damanpour & Schneider, 2009; Walker et al., 2011). However, according to De Vries et al. (2014) a more general systematic review about public sector innovation is still lacking. They further point out that very often, public sector innovation has been linked to reform movements such as the New Public Management, electronic government, the changeover from government towards governance and to discussion about the (retreating) role of government in a ‘Big Society’.
For innovation to genuinely transform public services, it must therefore be accompanied by creative decommissioning, which means identifying those services that are not performing to expectations and stopping them while freeing up resources to develop new innovative and effective services.
Public Sector Innovation in Various Jurisdictions
Countries have adopted various approaches at the national level to foster public sector innovation. The choice of the solution depends on external as well as internal factors such as the country’s system for service delivery (rules and regulations, financial frameworks and organisational settings) and the extent of involvement of external actors in the delivery process. Such approaches range from developing whole-of- government innovation strategies that address the role of the public sector as innovator (e.g. Finland); to creating structures to support individual organisations in their innovation processes (e.g. Denmark); to innovation in service delivery with a focus on bringing the service closer to the user by improving access conditions (e.g. creation of multi-service centres that provide one-stop shops for users and integration of different channels of service provision to provide greater choice and personalization such as the Shared Services in Canada, which consolidates IT infrastructure including email, data centres and networks across 43 departments and agencies). Other approaches include the use of Information and communication technologies (ICTs) to meet new demands for online services (e.g. the US Federal Emergency Management Agency, which uses Twitter to share information with citizens during crisis (OECD, 2012).
In addition, there are also dedicated strategies and action plans for innovation in public services, such as Australia’s Centrelink Concept Lab, which enables the testing and evaluation of potential service delivery improvements in actual workplace conditions. Therefore, innovation strategies, though adopted by individual public sector organisations, are driven by individuals with sufficient vision and determination to push the innovation process (Koch & Hauknes, 2005 as cited in OECD, 2012).
In Singapore, the government seeks to build a public service that is ready for change and ready to change through the PS21. PS21 aims to improve organisation and public officers’ capacity to deliver citizen-centric policies and services. Under PS21 the public service has implemented a range of government programmes focusing on recognising public service innovation, improving policy and service delivery and encouraging cross-agency collaboration. In addition, the Design Thinking Unit, has emphasized a human centred approach that builds trust and puts the needs of the citizens at the centre. Further, in a bid to recognise the officers’ and agencies’ spirit of innovation and excellence, the government has introduced various excellence awards that are given at the annual PS21 EXCEL (Excellence through Continuous Enterprise and Learning) Awards and convention for deserving programmes and policies (
Role of Technology
Technology, which is one of the many enablers to improved service delivery, is opening new opportunities to involve citizens in the design and delivery of services, increasing opportunities to engage citizens in jointly producing innovative services and outcomes. It is also creating more secure methods for delivering the services most needed by citizens. Many governments in Africa are adopting some forms of e-government to provide services to citizens online. The rate of change driven by technology will influence the affordability, interconnectedness and innovation of public services going forward (PWC, 2014). As a result governments and the public sector will be able to deliver services faster, better and more cheaply - all the while addressing long-term challenges arising from social, economic, demographic, environmental and technological change.
Organisational Culture and Innovation
Inculcating a culture of innovation is seen as a vital requirement to provide organisations with the necessary ingredients to innovate. This view is supported by Tushman & O’Reilly (1997) who viewed culture as one of the most important factors in the management of innovation. The question to ask therefore is, how might government create a culture of innovation to achieve lasting and meaningful change?
There is considerable overall agreement as to the general definition of organisational culture ( Osborne & Brown (2005); Koberg & Chusmir (1987); and French (1990) define culture as shared beliefs, ideas, customs, assumptions, expectations, values and understandings that produces norms of behaviour and establish an organisational way of life while, O’Reilly, Chatman, & Caldwell, (1991, p.491) define it as: “a set of cognitions shared by members of a social unit.”
Organisational culture, therefore, is the unwritten rules and expectations based on the shared attitudes and values of individuals within an organisation. Managing innovations is about creating a culture in which new ideas are generated, valued and supported (Streets & Boundary, 2004) and putting in place structures and processes to allow smooth transitions from the generation of new ideas to the implementation stage (Ismail & Abdmajid, 2007).
According to Miles, et al. (2008) organisational culture is made up of core values, behavioural norms, artefacts and behavioural patterns, which govern the way people in an organisation interact with each other and invest their energy in their jobs and the organisation at large. How an organisation manages innovation and what it wants to innovate, influences the types of innovation created (Davila, et al., 2009).
There seems to be little agreement in the conceptual studies as to the type of organisational culture that can promote creativity and innovation (Judge et al., 1997). Nevertheless, various researchers have proved that there is a positive relationship between organisational culture and innovation. Tushman and O’Reilly (1997) point out that organisational culture lies at the heart of organisational innovation. Similarly, Kenny & Reedy (2007) argue that organisational culture affects the extent to which creative solutions are encouraged, supported and implemented. Therefore, from these researchers it can be deduced that organisational culture is an antecedent as well as an important factor for innovation.
Research into highly innovative organisations in both the public and private sector indicates that there are seven dimensions of organisational culture that are closely related to the level of innovation output over time. These include risk-taking, rewards, tools, resources, information, targets and relationships (Mulgan & Albury, 2003).
Building a Risk-Averse Culture
Innovation and risk go hand in hand. This is the creation of a corporate culture that permits making mistakes and allows employees to challenge the status quo (Adair, 2004). It is important to bear in mind that innovation is not about failure but more about frequency of trials. It requires a willingness to experiment and learn from what works in practice. According to Aidisert, (2002) people who are afraid to make mistakes are not likely candidates for risking their creative juices on the job. Krauss (2000) found a strong relationship between innovative initiatives and an organisational risk-taking culture. In his study he found that government agencies that promote a risk-taking culture were more engaged in innovation initiatives. The organisation’s ability to have an inbuilt risk-tolerance structure is exemplified by the level of risk and uncertainty that a firm can tolerate (Johansson & Jonsson, 2014). Not every idea will be a success and organisations should be prepared for this. If employees are constantly worried that they might lose their jobs, they will never take the necessary risks to develop an idea (
Reward for Innovating
An associated challenge is finding ways to reward public servants who undertake well-structured experimentation even when it does not succeed. Organisations that foster innovative thinking also encourage discovery and find ways to reward time spent on the research required to generate new products and ideas. The best way to keep employees trying hard and working toward success is to reward effort. Employees can be rewarded with recognition for a job well done, flexible working hours, a freebie or even the chance to develop their idea and head up the project. In addition, other incentives such as, career advancement, team selection, special assignments and learning opportunities can motivate desired behaviours. The theory of public service motivation as advanced by Perry & Hondeghem (2008) suggests that many public sector employees pursue their careers because they are intrinsically motivated to create public value rather than increasing public wealth. Thus, there is need to design human resource management practices that will bring employees closer to the impact of their work, as well as structure learning opportunities by interacting with beneficiaries and others who share similar values and take pride in similar kinds of work. A more motivated and engaged workforce would likely be more interested in improving the outcomes of the services they manage and therefore may be more interested in innovating. In support of this view, Amabile (1998) argued that expertise and creativity skills must be accompanied by intrinsic motivation to produce highly creative behaviour.
Having Flexible Rules and Regulations
Public sector organisations are regulated by a complex set of laws, rules and procedures. The organisational capacity to innovate in the public sector is likely linked in some respect to the rules, processes and procedures that an organisation establishes to manage its business. While these rules are established for good reasons (protecting public interest, ensuring ethical use of resources, promoting accountability, establishing common operating procedures for consistency and efficiency) their design may have unintended effects that can inhibit individual and organisational capacity to innovate. Reducing red tape has been a common focus in many countries over recent years, primarily to reduce the burden for business (OECD, 2003).
Resources for Innovation
According to Hamel and Prahalad (1990); Kanter (1988); and Mclaughlin et al. (2008) resources for innovation include financial, time and human resources. Kanter (2000) argues that resource allocation signals expectations, that is the allocation of time and money to innovation signals that innovation is an important priority. Therefore, top management should be prepared to allocate resources to radical opportunities because a lack of flexibility in resource allocation can be a barrier to radical innovation (Johansson & Jonsson, 2014).
In addition, public sector innovation takes root when the knowledge of a problem and its potential solutions come together with people who are able and motivated to do something about it. These people also need the opportunity and the resources to innovate and this suggests the need to consider how rules, laws and bureaucratic process that regulate the public sector can be designed to encourage public sector innovation.. Rules that allow for certain levels of resource flexibility appear to enable public sector innovation. Three key factors to consider include clarity and simplicity of the regulatory framework that governs an organisation’s activities, the process and procedures that the organisation uses to budget and finance its activities, and the way an organisation manages its innovative projects (OECD, 2003). Organisations may wish to explore whether their regulations allow them to realise savings and use them to fund other priorities.
According to Kanter (1998) innovation needs to be clearly articulated as a goal that is reflected in a firm’s strategy. Clearly specified strategic goals often enhance people’s creativity (Amabile, 1998). An organisational culture that supports autonomy in achieving clearly communicated goals will likely be more successful in terms of creativity and innovation than an organisation that does not (McLean, 2005). Firms that have incorporated innovation into their strategic intents consistently communicate the value of innovation and allocate resources in order to increase the propensity for innovation (Johansson & Jonsson, 2014). Cultures that focus on achievement, results and actions tie rewards to performance indicators and not seniority or loyalty (

Relationships centre on the level of pride that members experience in being part of the organisational culture that values fairness, supportiveness and respect for individual rights. Organisations that view people as their greatest asset create an atmosphere where work is fun. Cultures that emphasise collaboration and co- operation among employees tend to have more positive relationships amongst employees (
Effective information management systems across the public administration may also support greater integration where information is shared across different services and even different levels of government. This may create new possibilities for innovation in how the public sector perceives and treats its citizens. A study by Darroch (2005) found that firms that are better at knowledge management use their resources more efficiently and enhance innovation. However, the infrastructure of knowledge management systems alone is not sufficient to shape the behaviour and culture of an organisation, which requires trust and openness to support information sharing. Sharing of information has a multiplying effect on knowledge and tends to
spur innovation beyond the public sector. Sharing organisational information across the public sector can also support the identification of useful practices, which may provide individual organisations with innovative ideas that can be adapted to their own context. Further, according to Aidisert (2002) firms that have intranets allow employees to post information that may be of help to the organisation. This sharing of information stimulates creativity in a way that is entirely different from the outputs of traditional brainstorming sessions.
Public administration’s openness to a wider society is being facilitated by new technologies, which provide new possibilities for public sector information. Initiatives such as Open Government Data (OGD) and the opportunities created by social media offer new sources of information and new ways to share public sector information (OECD, 2014).
Opening up government data can help create a two-way interaction between government and society. A government that opens up its information, making it accessible and re-usable, is one that is no longer the sole provider of solutions but rather a platform that facilitates other actors to create public value (O’Reilly, 2010). Openness also helps to create competition between public sector organisations to drive public sector innovation and performance pressures.
Environment and Innovation
The capability to produce new ideas, and transform them into successful propositions is fostered by the culture of the organisation. According to McLean, (2005) an environment of freedom and autonomy has been found to be a key factor in promoting creativity in an organisation as it is more likely to tap into the intrinsic motivation of its employees. Therefore, to nurture and sustain a culture of innovation, organisations first need to develop a conductive environment where members feel free to contribute (Beck, 2004). Organisations must let employees know they are open for innovation. Some organisations do this by creating a designated space where employees can be creative.
Employees might also be given time away from the daily grind to work on projects of their own choice. Some companies hold innovation days, others have hackathon sessions, while others give staff a set amount of time to work on projects that excite them, developing and testing new ideas. Managers should also provide positive feedback on those ideas. A much-cited example of this is Google’s “20% time” policy, which allows employees to spend one-fifth of their work week on work that interests them, with the expectation that this discretionary work will result in an “aha” moment (https://www. Similarly, in developing the inkjet printer at Hewlett-Packard, John Vaught and Dave Donald were given extra ordinary autonomy in pursuing their ideas about how heat could be used to eject ink onto paper (Robinson & Stern, 1997). Thus, to truly innovate, organisations need to ensure a culture that not only supports new ideas and new ways of doing business, but the execution of those ideas as well. Employee ideas have to be implemented or they’re not worth anything (
Leadership and Innovation
Leadership has been identified as a key determinant of organisational culture (Streets & Boundary, 2004). Innovation culture is the work environment that leaders cultivate in order to nurture unorthodox thinking and its application. Workplaces that foster a culture of innovation generally subscribe to the belief that innovation is not the province of top leadership but can come from anyone in the organisation. Innovation cultures are prized by organisations that compete in markets defined by rapid change; maintaining the status quo is insufficient to compete effectively, thus making an innovation culture essential for success (
Hassan and Wright (2014) found that the behaviour of leaders and organisational supervisors is the primary influence on employee’s ethical behaviour. Employees will do what they see their supervisors do, rather than what the policy manual dictates.  Leaders play a critical role in establishing many of the preconditions ripe for innovation such as strategic alignment across an organisation, empowering staff to take initiative, building collaborative work units and prioritising learning.
Read (2000) carried out a comprehensive and systematic review to verify the main determinants of successful innovation. He concluded that the most important determinant was management support for innovation (e.g. top management plays a crucial role in providing support for an innovation culture). Leaders must take the initiative to foster a culture of innovation, engage, empower and encourage employees and reward creativity
(Mulgan & Albury, 2003). Further, Chavda (2004) in an analysis of determinants of an innovation- supportive organisational culture, found that organisational support for innovation is significantly positively influenced by management support, trust, rewards, goal clarity and organising work around teams. In another study, Giberson (2001) found that leaders have a significant role in the creation of their organisation’s culture.
At the level of managerial behaviour, Brendle (2001) studied the impact of personality traits of the owner-managers in support of innovation culture. The study found that the personality traits of being proactive, openness to ideas, openness to actions, and risk-taking propensity are key requirements to create a culture supportive of innovation. Therefore, a more participative management style within a supportive culture is favoured; where communication and teamwork are optimal; where the structural flexibility empowers employees; and risk-taking and occasional failures are tolerated. With the right mix of these factors in place, innovation has the potential to flourish (Ismail & Abdmajid, 2007).
Employee Empowerment and Innovation
People are central to public sector innovation. An innovation begins as an idea in the minds of citizens, public servants, managers and political leaders and is generated at the cross section of human interaction. These ideas are inspired by the needs of citizens and are transformed from idea to practice through the commitment of public servants and leaders who anticipate these needs and respond to them. Thus, a study of innovation must begin with an understanding of the people who contribute to innovations and what motivates and enables them to do so. A report by an expert group on public sector innovation (2014) links innovative behaviour to an entrepreneurial mindset, which includes challenging assumptions, focusing on outcomes and co-designing with users and embracing the unknown through small-scale interactive experiments. This depends on leadership, vision, communication and the ability to build alliances. The way in which communication channels are nurtured or discouraged in organisations can be a potential source of support or an impediment to innovation and creativity (McLean, 2005).
To achieve a 21st century public service, agencies need to embrace transformation and inspire employees to seek continuous improvement. A culture that supports lifelong learning is also crucial to developing organisations that learns from information. To develop capacity for innovation, an organisation must change and adapt by learning from its past experiences while anticipating future challenges through organisational foresight. This is because data, information, knowledge and learning are essential to innovation and the way they are managed can support or hinder innovation (OECD, 2014).

Establishing a culture of innovation is one thing; sustaining that culture is another. One way organisations can sustain a creative, exploratory culture is by rewarding employees for this kind of work. To sustain a culture of innovation, public sector organisations need to motivate employees. Motivation is considered key to a wide range of performance outcomes at the personal and organisational level. If employees have all the abilities required to perform, they will be more likely to apply these abilities if they are valued by the organisation. Hence organisations must offer the right incentives to motivate the best behaviour. Motivated employees are considered to be better at their job, to put in more effort to achieve outcomes and to be willing to push for positive change in their workplace by committing extra energy above and beyond the minimum required from their job descriptions (Adair, 2004).

Motivating professional public servants to be innovative requires:
  1. careful consideration of the range of incentives and disincentives, both intrinsic and extrinsic, that operate simultaneously within an organisation; and
  2. that they have the right skills to apply to the problems they are being asked to solve. Employees who feel less capable to complete tasks will be less motivated to undertake them while those with new skills will be keen to put them to use.
There is need therefore to think about employee and workforce development in new and creative ways.
Organisations can sustain a creative, exploratory culture by favouring flexibility where the organisation is capable of responding to changing situations, and is flat rather than pyramidal in structure. This is also known as Holacracy. A holacracy provides a flat management structure that distributes authority. The goal of a holacracy is to ensure that those responsible for completing work are given the authority to decide how that work should be carried out (

According to proponents, holacracies lead to greater efficiency, agility, transparency, accountability, employee engagement and innovation. Traditional hierarchical organisations fail to adapt and grow because politics and bureaucracy get in the way. They rely on strong leadership and flawless insight from the top down; the people making important decisions are often completely removed from the actual problem. This leads to ideas that sound good in theory but have no real- world value. When organisations structure themselves around power and authority, employees do their best to fulfil the organisation’s mission, but instead spend all their time reacting to the environment ( A culture that supports and encourages control will result in diminished creativity and innovation (Amabile, 1988).
There is need for public sector organisations to embrace top- down and bottom-up strategies to identify and promote innovative behaviour. From the top-down, one might implement management tools and programmes to build the innovative capacity of public organisations and the innovative capabilities of employees and managers. From the bottom-up, one might identify ways to encourage employees to experiment with new approaches, explore new avenues and celebrate this kind of behaviour which inspires others to act in similar ways.

Over the past 10 years Kenya has made a stunning innovation journey in which the country’s youths have played an important role. The government has responded to the clear desire of Kenya’s youth to engage in innovation with new policies and increased funding for research and development (R&D) as a strategy for creating jobs and supporting innovation. Kenya is ranked 92nd out of 141 countries in the Global Innovation Index (GII) Report of 2015. The country has made impressive progress in innovation in recent years, rising from 99th position in 2013 to 85th in 2014 (Dutta et al., 2015). The Innovation, which is mainly driven by young people, has led to new products or services that eventually contributed to the creation of new wealth and economic development (GOK, 2007).
The Kenya Vision 2030 recognises the critical role innovation will play in fighting poverty and fostering economic development. The Vision 2030 discourse centres on institutional reforms, human resource development, enhanced research and development, as well as improved science and technology infrastructure (GOK, 2007). In order to operationalise the constitutional requirement for the recognition of indigenous knowledge, a sessional paper on science and technology was published in 2012, and in 2013 Parliament enacted the Science, Technology and Innovation Act. This Act makes radical institutional changes that will transform Kenya’s innovation system once fully implemented. The Act establishes three institutions in the Department of Education, Science and Technology that will be responsible for bringing the innovation system to life. These are the National Commission for Science Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI), The Kenya National Innovation Agency (KENIA) and the National Research Fund (NRF). Another key institution within the innovation ecosystem is the Kenya Education Network, which facilitates the sharing of educational and research resources through a government- subsidised national broadband network; it also serves as the National Research and Education Network (Dutta et al., 2015). National Universities are competing to set up software and hardware incubation centres that would link them to industry. The University of Nairobi started C4DLab (a software incubation centre) and will soon start its own science park, which will focus more on its fab lab, in conjunction with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), while Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and Kenyatta University have put up an Industrial Technology Park for research output and the Manu Chandaria Incubation Centre respectively. All these incubation programmes have led to the commercialisation of their research outputs (Dutta et al., 2015).
The government has introduced the eCitizen platform. Through this platform citizens and foreign residents can apply for Government to Citizen (G2C) services and pay via mobile money, debit card and eCitizen agents. Currently five government departments and one county government are on the eCitizen platform. Some of the services available through this platform include: search for title deed, land rent; application for birth and death certificates, passport, visa and work permits; and payment for licences, permits and business registration among others.
The Public Service Commission also introduced a Public Service Excellence Award Scheme in 2015 to celebrate the outstanding achievements and contributions of extraordinary public servants in the course of their work. It is about officers in the civil service whose service and contributions have had the effect of making a significant difference to the way public services are delivered within the organisations where they serve as well as generally over the entire service. In the Public Service Excellence Award Scheme, the Public Servant of the Year Award (PSOYA) is the preeminent means of recognizing outstanding achievement and contribution by civil servants.
The PSOYA recognizes the actions and achievements of public officers, who go above and beyond what could be reasonably expected, and in doing so, create a national momentum for quality service delivery and ideals of the highest public service standards and values. Through the Scheme, officers who have shown exemplary and outstanding performance are rewarded for:
  1. significant contributions to change /transformation at the workplace;
  2. outstanding contributions in mentorship, empowerment coaching and support to colleagues in their organisation/workplace;
  3. ethical practice and upholding the values and principles of public service in Article 232 of the Constitution;
  4. innovation in service provision/operations in the organisation; and
  5. receiving a national or international award orrecognition/major contribution under extra ordinary circumstances/achievement of major milestones in their primary roles.
In the year 2015 four officers were recognized and awarded for the role they had played in bringing about change in service delivery.
Through the performance contracting initiative, public service agencies are encouraged to be innovative in service delivery and there is a score for innovation that is implemented by a public body. Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are encouraged to come up with as many innovations as possible. Service delivery innovations are expected to realise cost savings, which is an efficiency measure that assures more is achieved with less without sacrificing quantity, quality and standards. They are measured on the basis of number of innovations and the implementation/application of the innovations. MDAs are expected to: be clear on the innovations to be developed and how they will impact on service delivery; identify the service delivery points: and at the end of the contract period, demonstrate how the innovations have worked (

Huduma Kenya is another initiative introduced by the Government of Kenya. It aims at transforming public service delivery by providing citizens access to various public services and information from one-stop-shop citizen service centres called “Huduma Centres” and through integrated technology platforms. Huduma Kenya provides efficient government services at the convenience of the citizen. In these centres, over twenty (20) services from various government institutions are provided from the same location. The centres have created additional service points to improve citizen access to services and eliminate the inconvenience of moving from one point to the other. There are now forty (40) Huduma centres across the country as the government races to fully digitise its services (

While there is a growing awareness of increased innovation in the public sector worldwide, more systematic efforts to promote innovation will be required to maintain high levels of welfare services to help address the economic and societal challenges that the public sector faces (Borins, 2001; Eggers & Singh, 2009; European Commission, 2011; Koch & Hauknes, 2005). This can be realised through the growth of an innovative culture that can be nurtured through a variety of dynamic factors. Creating a holistic model of innovation culture is a long-term and dynamic process. It requires the initial role of management to drive the organisational factors towards the desired change. The change will ultimately produce an environment of innovation in which the generation and implementation of ideas in every section of the organisation becomes the norm. It will make employees motivated and confident enough to continually try new things. Supportive management will underpin all the said practices, without which an innovation culture is unlikely. The innovation process will occur in a culture that is comprised of a coherent set of espoused values to facilitate the innovation practices. Strong cultures exist in organisations where key values are intensely held and widely shared ( Values that promote innovation include flexibility, oriented visioning, empowering, appreciation of ideas, risk tolerance, communication, encouragement and shared decision-making. Thus, organisations need openness, mutual trust, encouragement, management behaviours, strategic orientation, supportive structures, and learning and knowledge acquisition approaches.

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