What Makes A Good Innovation Strategy?

Industry Insight: Julian Harris, Head of Innovation, Department for Work & Pensions (UK Government)


Ahead of his presentation at the Chief Innovation Officer Summit in London this October 19-20, we spoke to Julian Harris, Head of Innovation at Department for Work & Pensions (UK Government).

Julian is a 'veteran millennial' who has been developing internet software since 1993. He left Google after 7 years to make a real difference using leading edge technology as Head of Innovation at DWP where a substantial in-house capability is being built. Julian is passionate about technology as a force for good. He uses a heavily partnership-focused, agile research methodology, is rapidly delivering unique insights that despite its early beginnings is already positively impacting technology strategy.

How did you get started in your career?

I was always interested in computers. I found the process of creating through code incredibly interesting, almost magical. I was privileged to start my career at the pre-dawn of the commercial internet (1992) and got to be part of the transformation of the world through the open technologies and innovations that kept coming at us all, faster and faster. I have always been the happiest in the creative space, where new ideas are critical to progress. Product Management at Google was no exception, but the purity of an innovation leadership role was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

What are the main components of a successful innovation strategy?

Great pipes at both end: both a focal point that aligns with big questions the organisation has, along with a really clear integration mechanism for taking the results of the innovation function and transferring them effectively to the stakeholders that would most benefit.

Is open innovation worth the risk?

For most areas, yes. Even where it’s assumed it’s a bad thing such as the stock markets, it’s proven that new levels of innovation happen when data is combined from disparate sources (see Numerai’s case study) and made open for others to innovate upon. However, many organisations have data that is sufficiently sensitive that the risk of unintended consequences from open sharing many consider is too high.

How important is it to collaborate with the startup community? What are your thoughts on internal and external incubator programs?

Incredibly important. They offer great value for money, agility, passion, and pace (VAPP). They bring energy and inspiration into a larger organisation. However you need to accept that they are often not as polished or focused, perhaps naive at times, and generally need a much faster on-ramp to commercial engagement than otherwise (they can’t spend hundreds of hours on proposals and negotiations).

What can delegates expect from your presentation at the Chief Innovation Officer Summit?

To update their thinking about the transformational and innovative programmes that are going on at DWP and across the government, to understand what innovation means in the civil service, and how we expect this to translate into innovative public services.

You can hear from Julian and other industry leaders at the Chief Innovation Officer Summit, taking place in London this October 19-20.

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