Innovation Week 2012 - GovCamp - Leadership Panel

Caucasian suited man standing at a podium with microphone in front of four background seated people


We have lots of discussion about innovation in the public sector, but at GovCamp we had the opportunity to hear from a number of senior public servants about their thoughts on what innovation means and what to do about it.

Leadership Panel


I won't recount the entire discussion, as you can watch the Panel discussion for yourself on YouTube, however I want to cover off on some of the discussion points I found particularly relevant.

Michael Chisnall, Executive Director, ACT Government Information Office spoke about the innovation process and what innovative organisations look like.

  • Change is always accompanied by risk and an innovative organisation must be able to accommodate risk

  • They also need to have, and to value, creativity

  • Need to be able to identify and communicate compelling results that can come from innovation

  • Organisations need knowledge networks that can overlay the organisational hierarchy and let ideas move between different areas

  • We need to co-produce solutions with the broader community

  • We need to stop asking permission from the top of the hierarchy simply in order to do our job.


Ken Pettifer, Deputy Secretary of our Department, gave an overview of the role of the public sector in the broader innovation system.

  • The public sector represents about a third of the economy and is thus an important player in not only helping set the conditions for innovation but in creating and implementing innovations

  • He outlined the context of our work on public sector innovation, starting from the Review of the National Innovation System in 2008, the Management Advisory Committee project, and the APS Innovation Action Plan

  • He noted that as leaders in the APS they need to systematise innovation so it become engrained in our culture and in our way of doing things

  • We need to be strategic about innovation, and to share and record innovations

  • As part of its work to help embed public sector innovation the Department has been working on the Centre for Excellence in Public Sector Design and the Australian Public Sector Innovation Indicators project

  • The Secretaries Board will also be receiving an annual report on the public sector innovation system.


David Fricker, Director General of the National Archives of Australia, spoke about the attributes of an innovative organisation.

  • It needs to have a clear value proposition - what is it trying to do? What is its value for citizens?

  • Do not try to reinvent services that nobody wants, make sure your innovative efforts relate back to adding value

  • In order to provide that value, you need to know what your clients/customers/citizens want

  • If you know that, they you have a much better chance of getting your idea up, for it to succeed and to be recognised

  • An organisation needs to have an appetite for innovation, and to be resilient and fault tolerant

  • Need teams that are clustered around the innovative ideas that are small, nimble and passionate

  • Small teams drive innovations, but they need to involve and engage the other parts of the organisation as well

  • Innovation is not an IT project, it must be owned by other business areas in the agency as well

  • Innovations need to be connected to a shared and sustainable vision - and that in turn needs to be tied to the Corporate plan and its strategic priorities.


Those speakers were also joined by Ann Steward (Australian Government Chief Information Officer), Anne-Marie Schwirtlich (Director General of the National Library of Australia), and Drew Clarke (Secretary of the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism) about their vision for and experiences with innovation and Gov 2.0.

You can also watch many of the other sessions of the day on YouTube. I personally found the whole day really valuable, and our team would like to give a huge thanks to the many volunteers who put together the day, it was a great event and it made a big contribution to the aims of Innovation Week.
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