Commissioned by the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG), this report builds on a pioneering survey of almost 400 public servants in Australia and New Zealand, dozens of interviews with senior practitioners, and original research into how governments around the world are training public officials in innovative practices.
The survey findings show that public servants are eager to embrace skills for innovation but receive inadequate training in them. Knowledge of new ways of working far outstrips practice. Blunt public sector management tools, including hiring freezes, efficiency dividends, and funding cuts that hobble innovative or experimental initiatives, are creating what interviewees for this study describe as a creeping crisis for the public sector. The slow adoption of tools widely used beyond government, together with cultural inertia, erodes the prospect of a more collaborative, creative and empathetic public sector workforce.
To reverse these trends, this report argues that governments must train public servants to become “public entrepreneurs” who tackle problems using innovative, data-driven, and participatory methods, and who are comfortable with risk and even initial failure in pursuit of outcomes that improve the lives of citizens.