Seven guiding principles to drive more effective innovation in national security (Guest blog by Accenture)
Technology is evolving at pace and as old solutions become outdated and compromised, the UK needs to develop new intelligence and security to keep ahead of the game, capabilities.
However, this doesn’t just mean introducing innovative new technologies. To achieve the aims laid out in the UK Government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy (2021) of becoming a science and technology superpower by 2030, the way the security sector innovates is as important as the new solutions themselves.
As we enter techUK’s National Security campaign week, I wanted to share my seven guiding principles to drive more impactful, outcome-oriented innovation in national security in 2023:
- Collaborate: According to the West African proverb, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” And when it comes to impactful, sustainable innovation, you want to go far! To ensure the full spectrum of knowledge is brought to bear when problem-solving national security solutions, bring multiple perspectives to the table. Multidisciplinary teams ensure diversity of thought, so include people with sustainability, security, value, talent and culture experience. And from a partnership perspective, it’s time to ditch the traditional transactional approach of old and work together as peers who share the same vision, co-creating solutions together.
- Design for people: Human-centred design puts users, customer needs and experiences at the heart of new solutions, so frame success in dimensions specific to the end user. This approach will also enable you to build in and validate broader outcomes - such as EDI and financial outcomes.
- Be data-centric: Develop a holistic understanding of the challenges you’re facing by embracing multiple sources of data, both qualitative and quantitative. It’s also important to balance self-reported and observed behaviour to reduce bias. This means not relying on observation, personal experience or accepted wisdom. Gather enough data to identify a pattern and display it visually so that it’s more easily understood. And remember, data alone doesn’t add value – you need to analyse the data and develop actionable insights.
- Adopt an agile mindset: Nothing today is static, so you need to be comfortable with change. Iterate to continually uncover new sources of value and build resilience. It’s important to be clear on what the expected outcomes are and be OK with ‘good enough’. Share solution designs early and often to get feedback from others. Experiment to deliver Minimum Viable Products, expect failure and react positively to it. To be most effective, build self-organising teams and remove the hierarchy.
- Innovate for impact: Innovation should never be for innovation’s sake, but rather to deliver a desired outcome. To achieve this, always start with a blank slate. Be comfortable with the unknown, encourage interrogation of problems and challenge the status quo. This may involve overcoming orthodoxies - be bold, be open to new ideas that will create value, think beyond the conventional and reimagine the possible.
- Demonstrate 360-degree value: Often, the value of an innovation is measured financially. Think of value holistically instead and consider the benefit of any innovation from an employee experience, sustainability, EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) perspective too. Be open to finding new ways to deliver value beyond the agreed plan. And don’t forget to communicate about value that’s being delivered!
- Think and act sustainably: Technology changes fast and it can be tempting to jump onto the next new thing. However, when it comes to national security, it’s important to take a long-term view and consider how any proposed solutions will affect this generation and the next. Think through any unintended consequences of introducing a new solution and include sustainability experts into the innovation process.
Continued investment in innovation is clearly important from a national security perspective. To deliver effective, sustainable solutions, the ‘how’ of innovation is just as important as the ‘what’ (if not more so!) and following these seven principles is a great place to begin.
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