Sustaining innovations

If an innovation is successful, an agency should examine how it can be integrated and embedded into the organisation’s operations. Often, it will be necessary to work to sustain a new idea or way of working, and not assume that  that it will continue of its own accord once it has been implemented. Resistance to it may take time to mobilise, or the innovation may falter after its champion or sponsor moves on.

The below offers some guidance on approaches to help embed an innovation.

Approaches to the sustainability of public service innovations[1. This material is not covered by the Creative Commons licence or Commonwealth Copyright. From Osborne and Brown 2005, Managing change and innovation in public service organizations, Routledge, London]



  • Choose visible goals for the innovation that you know will be met early on and which will reinforce to staff its effectiveness.

  • Create organizational subsystems to support the innovation after its initial introduction and which do not rely on one or two individuals alone for their sustenance.

  • Ensure a wide spectrum of organizational staff and stakeholders receive credit from the innovation.

  • Take personal responsibility for mistakes rather than blaming them on, and discrediting, the innovation.

  • Provide regular ‘breathers’ for staff to catch up with the pace of change and assimilate the implications of the innovation for themselves.

  • Ensure that an innovation-friendly culture is engendered and which exists beyond the initial period of innovation, and which can allow lessons to be learned and further innovations to be engendered.

  • Provide an evaluation mechanism from the outset which is about learning positive lessons and supporting innovation, rather than being negatively oriented and concerned with blaming individuals for mistakes.


Source: Osborne and Brown (2005, p. 211).