The “Team 6” experience – building internal innovation capacity

Virtual Incubator

The “Team 6” experience – building internal innovation capacity

Environment and culture are the keys to successful innovation

The Still Dynamic has developed, prototyped, tested the concept of “innovation acceleration” and “incubation-as-a-service.” We call these “virtual incubators.” Just like software-as-service but for organisations that cannot sustain the risks of a “skunk works” or internal “incubator.” Virtual incubators prepare your people to be intrapreneurs. This process delivers “innovation capacity building as a service.”

Team 6 is a highly curated innovation “virtual incubator.” We created this service as an experiment to develop creative confidence, service design skill and broad innovation capacity within the Victorian Public Service (VPS). The Team 6 experiment took five women and five men who were committed to delivering quality services to citizens through an innovation virtual incubator program. The members were screened and carefully chosen for their openness, authenticity, willingness to experiment and commitment to serving their communities. Team 6 met every week at lunchtime on a Wednesday or Thursday for over 2 years. Changes in behaviour, engagement and openness were apparent within 2 months of operation.

Ten Victorian public servants. One mission. A deep, immersive and personal exploration of self, others and the clarity required to serve in the 21st century.
Team 6 was born. Named for the US NAVY SEAL team of the same name.

Innovation and organisational adaptation requires very different awareness and behaviours compared to how we deliver our business-as-usual services.

  • Comfort with uncertainty,
  • direct engagement with users to understand their worlds,
  • prototyping to learn, and
  • learning to be comfortable with the discomfort of failure.

We are not taught these skills through traditional training or in our workplaces. The insight for this modular, cross-agency and cross-functional team approach came from a failed proposal to create an internally-funded Victorian Public Sector Venture Capital Fund (VPS VC Fund). The VPS VC Fund was a response to the lack of capacity and structured, disciplined innovation funding and the the triple threat facing all governments:

  1. decreasing receipts and revenue,
  2. the losing battle to retain local exceptional talent, and
  3. the clear and immediate need to retool the Service for the 21st century.

Since our citizens demand effective, seamless, tailored and near instantaneous service delivery, we asked ourselves:

“How might we develop innovation ready teams within the Service that could operate independently and interdependently in a self-supporting and self-sustaining ways that bypass the uncertainty and risk gridlock which prevents agile responsiveness?”

The experiment relied on the steady curation and the goodwill of the participants to create a coherent and cumulative experiential environment to learn, unlearn and relearn different ways of making change within their departments … a government innovation sleeper cell – off the books, supported by the innovation underground, self-organising, self-sufficient, invisible, mobile and effective. Peers supporting peers to get things done. 

We created the environment and curated the activity using their unique blend of empathy, human centred design, emergence, and awareness to build a deeply nourishing, open, accountable and aligned team of amazing, diverse and exceptional human beings.

Team 6 has since supported the innovation ecosystem in the VPS. They have supported each other to grow and achieve within and without the Service. They are a family. They look out for each other and are available to help one another in their work, where appropriate.

The proof is in action and outcomes. TSD challenged and supported T6 to “come out” by designing, organising and running the Global GovJam 2015 and 2016, Global Sustainability Jam 2015 and 2016 for fellow public servants and our community. Most recently, members of T6 supported other innovators nurtured by TSD from within and outside the VPS to organise and run, Global GovJam 2017 with Melbourne as the Global Headquarter City for the event. 

T6 members contribute to, and support, the VPS Continuous Improvement and Innovation Network, and were instrumental to the success in delivering the prototype VPS Academy, a peer-to-peer knowledge sharing platform curated by the amazing people at Peer Academy.