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3. Wired Networks: Square up to Collaboration

09 May 2011

Working in silos is so passé. It is time to boldly go forth into the future by collaborating across virtual platforms.

If you haven't noticed: Isolation is out, collaboration is in. Governments are tapping the value of wired collaboration. GovLoop, a US government social network, has 40,000 “government innovators” sharing ideas for “improving the government”. Australia’s Victorian Public Service Hub, an open technology platform, gives employees virtual space to discuss ideas.

Singapore’s Public Service wants the same with Cube – a platform to replace the existing government intranet. The team rolling it out says Cube will change how public officers work.

“Cube will let us extend our reach beyond our own agencies and tap the collective expertise of the whole Public Service,” says Ms Tan Hui Min, manager at the PS21 Office’s Collaborative Networks team that is rolling out Cube. “We’re shaping Cube together with officers and we’re excited to see where it goes from here.”

But will officers be willing to break down silos? Mr Maish Nichani, a local intranet expert who is working with the Cube team, has some observations. “The Public Service is running on a ‘performance engine’ where traits like repeatability and predictability are celebrated,” he says, using the analogy introduced by authors Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble in The Other Side of Innovation. Such an “engine” works well usually, but in times of flux, lacks flexibility and adaptability.

So an “innovation engine” is needed – emphasising a questioning culture, empathy and spirit of sharing and openness. Based on Cube research, most users prefer the safer “performance engine” norms of observing hierarchy, confidentiality and sticking to rules.

The reluctance to share resources, participate in activities or discussions not directly relevant to one’s work would restrain Cube from its full potential, says Ms Tan. But if enough officers join to hit the tipping point, Cube could shape a bolder, more open and participative Public Service.

“It’s a gargantuan task and we don’t have all the answers yet,” admits Ms Tan, “but we welcome everyone to join us in creating a Public Service without walls.”

For more on Cube, visit www.cube.gov.sg. (This is an Intranet link that is not available to the public.)

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