A report how to foster Innovation in the Australian Public Service
This report was commissioned by the Management Advisory Committee (MAC) of the Australian government to consider how to develop and strengthen a culture of innovation in the Australian Public Service (APS). According to the 147 pages report increasingly, governments are recognising that innovation is not a tangential activity with limited relevance to their mainstream work, but an activity that is core to being able to achieve key public sector goals. Different literature sources acknowledge that innovation can present particular challenges to the public sector. It is inherently experimental and anti-hierarchical. It can easily be perceived as risky or disruptive and may seem contrary to notions of good public administration. However, as evidenced in this report, that is far from the case.
Some powerful barriers, in particular political risk and public scrutiny, have a specific impact on public sector innovation. They include risk aversion; failure of leadership; resource constraints; lack of direction and measurement; policy conflicts; hierarchical attitudes; silo mentality; legislative limitations; accountability concerns; and resistance to change.
Public administration sources of innovation, at its most effective, draws new ideas and perspectives from a wide range of internal and external sources and from all levels of authority. Staff, especially frontline staff, can be a rich source of innovation, basing their ideas on a wealth of knowledge about the practical side of existing policy and service implementation. Innovative agencies need to find ways to tap into that knowledge and build on it. External sources including the general public, experts, the business sector and the academic community can provide new perspectives and new approaches that an agency could never generate within its own walls. Citizens and businesses are especially important external sources of ideas. It is also important that agencies collaborate with one another (and also with agencies in other tiers of government) to maximise the sharing of best practice and other effective approaches throughout the public sector. Dissemination of innovative ideas and approaches can help governments to avoid ‘reinventing the wheel’ and maximise the value of investments in innovative activity.
Following are some of the recommendations that are described in this report:
- RECOMMENDATION 1: Innovation needs to be part of an agency’s strategic thinking and planning.
- RECOMMENDATION 2: Flow of information facilitates innovation and is a key to greater innovation in Government.
- RECOMMENDATION 3: To facilitate innovation, particularly where the innovation is radical or large-scale and where risks are high, Agencies should consult with Ministers to identify and agree on a risk environment to enable innovative approaches. This could include a stage gate approach, such as the two stage approval process used for defence procurement to manage risk.
- RECOMMENDATION 4: Leadership is a critical factor in creating a more innovative public sector. Building a culture of innovation in the public sector will require leadership from agency heads and the SES.
- RECOMMENDATION 5: To facilitate the adoption of innovative practices in the APS, agencies should use the Innovation Toolkit
- RECOMMENDATION 6: Collaboration and experimentation are two key inputs to realising innovation.
- RECOMMENDATION 7: Technology is re-shaping public interactions with business and government and increasing public expectations of engagement and service delivery. To realise these expectations and to capture the value of engagement, agencies should be timely and smart adopters of: Web 2.0 tools and approaches and Ideas Management Systems
- RECOMMENDATION 8: Procurement can foster innovative solutions for public sector challenges. It is recommended that agencies facilitate innovative solutions by focusing on outcomes, rather than specifications
Download the full report from here