Handbook of Innovation in Public Services
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Handbook of Innovation in Public Services

Edited by Stephen P. Osborne and Louise Brown

Leading researchers from across the globe review the state of the art in research on innovation in public services, providing an overview of key issues from a multi-disciplinary perspective. Topics explored include: context for innovation in public services and public service reform; managerial change challenges; ICT and e-government; and collaboration and networks. The theory is underpinned by seven wide-ranging case studies of innovation in practice.
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Chapter 4: A services-influenced approach to public service innovation?

Stephen P. Osborne


As has been well documented elsewhere (for example, Mischra 1984), the late twentieth century neo-liberal revolution in approaches to the management of public services delivery included an inherent assumption in the supremacy of private sector business management methods over those traditionally found within public administration (often referred to in shorthand as the ‘New Public Management’, or NPM (Hood 1991)). In the UK, a key influence in this process was undoubtedly the New Right think-tanks of the 1980s, such as the Adam Smith Institute (for example, Pirie 1988). These bodies articulated the model of ‘competitive advantage’ (Porter 1985) as the central mechanism through which to drive improvement in public services delivery. This mechanism placed innovation at the heart of the effective workings of the market in order to achieve precisely such ‘competitive advantage’. The then Conservative UK government subsequently adopted a model of public services reform predicated upon the assumption that the introduction of competition and market disciplines to public services would lead to both greater economy and greater efficiency in public services delivery (Wistow et al. 1994). Drawing upon Porter’s theory of competitive advantage above, it was argued that the rigours of competition would require public service providers to innovate in order to maintain an advantage over their competitors – and that this process of innovation would thence lead to the improved efficiency and effectiveness in public services delivery.

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