The Five Ultimate Things You Can Do to Innovate Your Political Party

This is the fifth blog of a series on the innovation of political parties.

In our blog series, we attempted to develop an integrated framework for the innovation of political parties. Thus, we outlined (1) how political parties can be successful by having an ambidextrous approach, (2) how they can be strategic about improving their innovativeness, (3) what the sources of new ideas are, and (4) how to guide a political party from great ideas to great performance if you finetune its strategy and structure, and if you have the right people to boost your venture. 

Today, we want to provide a final short guide for you on how to improve the innovativeness of a political party. The focus should lie on the following five steps: 

1 Formulate an innovation strategy for the political party

Political leaders and senior managers of a political party must agree on which types of innovations (behavioural, policy, organisational) they want to focus and which specific objectives they want to achieve. Based on these objectives, they need to develop and draft an innovation funnel which defines the political party’s process from sourcing new ideas, identifying great ideas, making great ideas better, and implementing them. Click here if you want to see how an innovation funnel for a political party might look like.

2 Look for new ideas inside and outside the party

Innovation is a numbers game: the more ideas, the better. Political parties need to not only source ideas inside the organisation but also scout what is already out there, and/or activate their ecosystem. To systematically look at sourcing ideas, we advise you to focus on five sources of great ideas: outside (i.e. think tanks, competitors), inside (i.e. staff, officials), farside (i.e. members, volunteers and activists), deepside (i.e. regional party leaders) and darkside (i.e. advisors). We have already seen some great examples in politics that might inspire you: from the innovation contest initiated by the German Christian Democratic Union to improve campaigning at the local level, to an open innovation approach applied by the Austrian People’s Party to generate ideas for a new manifesto.

3 Build an innovation culture within the political party

To develop new approaches and adapt existing behaviors, policies and mechanisms, a culture of innovation is key. To develop an innovation culture in a political party, look at three aspects: the organisation’s values, how leaders and managers embed these values in their strategic decisions, and to what extent employees embrace these values in their daily political work.

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    4 Rethink your internal structures and mechanisms

    Political parties need to become organisations that exploit existing possibilities and at the same time explore future opportunities. Therefore they need to analyse and rethink their organisational structure and hierarchy, existing functions and positions within the organisation as well as its processes. Additionally, they need to rethink their approach of how to allocate resources. Regarding the latter, operatives in parties may ask themselves questions regarding time, space and infrastructure (i.e. collaboration tools), as well as budgets for innovation. To push and drive innovation strategically, political parties can also create new positions. In the business world, introducing Chief Innovation Officers has become a well-known approach.

    5 Provide people in your party with skills to innovate

    To innovate and bring innovative ideas into existence, political parties need to ensure that leadership, staff and activists have the right mindset and the necessary skills and know-how to generate great ideas as well as to implement them. 

    To master pressing societal challenges, such as climate change, rise of populism and the decline of social cohesion, politicians and political parties need to come up with innovative ideas and approaches. Instead of being innovative on occasion, we argue that political parties should manage ideas systematically and strategically. We believe innovative parties are more successful. If you agree, do not hesitate to start your own innovation process today.