Martin Bowles: we’re changing the culture at Health


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The public service needs open-minded leaders, ready to listen and brave enough to try new things, Health mandarin Martin Bowles told the 2015 Innovation Month Summit in Canberra. That means making time for blue-sky thinking — not excuses.

Public sector leaders need to create a “permission culture” that encourages brainstorming and information sharing, be open to new ideas from staff and stakeholders, and have the courage to pursue them, according to Department of Health secretary Martin Bowles.

Bowles opened yesterday’s Innovation Month Summit in Canberra, which focused on the theme of “cross-pollination” and featured a range of speakers who espoused similar views.

It began with a creative addition to the usual acknowledgement of the land’s original custodians. The summit’s host, Therapeutic Goods Administration branch head Bill Turner, noted that innovation and ingenuity are key traits of Australia’s indigenous people, which allowed them to thrive for tens of millennia in some fairly inhospitable environments.

Bowles noted that creating space for public servants to think outside the square and throw ideas around was the first step to mainstreaming innovative ideas.

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