Limits of public sector innovation


Wrong way sign on highway

There are natural reasonable limits on public sector innovation. Vishal Beri, a former ministerial advisor and NSW cabinet and treasury official, offers a counter view to the push for innovation in the public sector.

Public sector managers are under pressure to be innovative. Soon it may be de rigueur to be a creator, and career limiting if you’re not. Like when wearing cardigans to work became unfashionable.

Public administration literature dedicates more text to why and how bureaucrats should inhale and exhale the innovation infection. Ministers with the bug demand responses they haven’t seen before. The Australian government’s Innovation Guidelines 101 normalise the virus by advising on getting it.

When I worked in the public sector over a decade ago, innovation was generally about finding fresh ways to decisively tell ministers their ideas were stupid.

Today innovation in government involves searching for an illuminating process to discover a novel solution that can attach to confounding problems.

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