GovLab Cases: Innovation at the Dutch National Police


GovLab Cases: Innovation at the Dutch National Police

Inspiring success stories and best practices

Major innovations are rapidly and dramatically changing society. If the government wants to keep up with new developments and make society a better place to live in for its citizens, it needs to reinvent itself and innovate its own organisations. How does this work in practice? What steps do successful innovators in the public sector take? How to create an innovative mindset within the organisation? In this article we take a closer look at a first inspiring case: the Dutch National Police

Opportunities and threats in a changing landscape

According to Hans Schonfeld, CIO at the Dutch National Police, opportunities and threats are approaching society at a higher speed than ever before. Take, for instance, the introduction of self-driving cars. On the upside, these vehicles can be a great tool to improve traffic and reduce accidents. For the police force this could mean that the number of traffic officers will be reduced, offering them the opportunity to work in other parts of the police force. Yet on the downside, in the hands of terrorists or criminals, these vehicles can become self-driving explosives, disrupting society. Schonfeld: ‘As a public sector organisation we have the duty to look into new phenomena such as these from various angles. We need to understand the impact of innovation, and also we need to be innovative ourselves.’

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A new organisational mindset

When the organisation appointed Schonfeld as a CIO to help them become the “police force of tomorrow”, he realised that this would require a new organisational mindset, aimed at co-creating the future. Quite a challenge, especially for an organisation as large as the Dutch National Police, that employs 70,000 people. ‘I don’t believe I have a monopoly of wisdom, so I looked for a partner that could help us. That is when I found Deloitte. Together, we developed an educational program called the Innovation Expedition.’

Innovation Expedition

The first 8 weeks of the program were aimed at influencing the mindset of police leaders – which will be followed, later on, by the rest of the organisation. During week 8 to 12 the focus of the program was on the innovation skillset, including methodologies such as lean startup and design thinking. ‘Everything you need to know to do experiments and to solve wicked problems.’ This was followed in week 12 to 16 by a focus on tools and techniques to encourage creativity. In the last 4 weeks, the participants worked on the “sense set”: what do social and technological developments mean for Dutch society, for the Dutch police, and for individual police officers – both professionally and personally? After each block of 4 weeks, participants would meet at an Inspiration Day. They were also provided with an app to inspire and connect them.

So far, the program has been very successful. Already half of the 1,000 leaders within the Dutch National Police have participated voluntarily, and many of them have been able to adapt their way of working to some extent. Also, there are groups within the organisation that have started to experiment with new technologies themselves. One of them is a group of young detectives working with IBM Watson. So far, they have digitized 40 cold cases and found a number of new clues. Naturally, Schonfeld is proud of examples like these and what they stand for: a more adaptive and innovative mindset which will improve e.g. service to the public, crime prevention, and fighting cyberbullying and cybercrime.

Lessons learned

Although the Dutch National Police has always been a hierarchical organisation, police offers are never forced into new ways of working. What is his advice to create a change?

  1. Organisations work with leadership by example, or the “flu method” – where people get “infected” if they realise how they could be successful if they used new tools or ways of working. ‘I try to gather knowledge and tools and drive a team to experiment in a lab. If they are successful and become the showroom of the lab, others will want that new tool or process as well. For our organisation, that is the best way to change behaviour. 
  2. We organise TedX sessions, hackathons, and meetings to “spread the news” and inspire people.
  3. Don’t fight windmills, don’t be the Man of La Mancha (Don Quixote). If the top of the organisation is not ready for change yet, wait a few years. It’s crucial to have the support from the top, especially if you want to turn strategy into direct actions.

Next steps

‘Now it’s time for the next step: from incremental innovation to systematic innovation. Sometimes, people are afraid to fail, which can lead to bureaucracy. We need to change that.’ Also, he aspires to collaborate with new parties, including start-ups, universities and the public in a structured program, and show people inside and outside the organisation that we are changing. ‘That is strategy in action. We are developing a prototype for terahertz radiation in collaboration with TNO and a Dutch company which will allow police officers to discover armed people from a distance, without having to search them. We will do pilots in Amsterdam (where there is strong resistance to ethnic profiling), and in Rotterdam (where searches for weapons have not been very successful so far).’

About GovLab

GovLab, Deloitte’s public sector innovator. Major innovations are changing society drastically. Also the government will have to reinvent itself. GovLab brings together citizens, public & private parties and offers solutions based on technological and social innovations to key challenges in the field of healthcare, work & income, education and economics. 

GovLab is active around the globe, bringing international experience to a local level. Drawing on the hands-on experiences of international public and private organisations, we can work with you to set your strategy, and to design, build and launch succesfull innovations. Read more about GovLab

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