An Insight In to Public Sector Innovation – Australia

Check out how the Australian Public Sector leverages and enables Innovation for success

With Innovation becoming an important conversation in every organisation, the Australian Public Sector (APS) has created a framework to highlight the significance of understanding Public Sector Innovation and applying it. Using new ideas generated within the public sector, they have used applied innovation to solve complex issues.

Public Sector Innovation Australia

Innovation is something that everyone talks about, but it’s a concept that not everyone knows how to apply correctly to their organisation. It can sometimes become an overused word that gets tossed around, like a good idea that is never written down. When an organisation faces a challenge, it’s not enough to think of one solution.

Innovation allows people to work through the issues, and to come up with a range of ideas from different perspectives throughout the organisation. Challenges now need to be made with a variety of responses in order to solve the problem in a unique way.

The Australian public sector is an example of innovation that has encouraged them to use ideas for the better, in order to progress their work and initiaves.

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old”

Peter F. Drucker

So how did they jump on board?

The Australian public sector has always been involved in innovation, which they recognized

in 2009 when, the Australian National Audit office produced a practice guide called ‘Innovation in the Public Sector: Enabling Better performance, Driving New Directions’. This guide came from the Government agreeing that innovation was an area that needed to be considered and prioritised.

Public Sector Innovation Australia

This report drew on a mix of interviews from agency heads, to senior public servants to highlight areas that would need more management. While this was being developed, a project was also being developed for the Management Advisory Committee. This report was released in 2010 through and called, ‘Empowering Change: Fostering Innovation in the Australian Public Service.’

Innovation has many definitions, but it’s most basic definition is “a new method, idea, product etc.” The Australian public sector built on this definition to show how innovation is more than an idea, but it’s a collective group, thinking of ideas together in order to further their practices. This report set out a framework that allowed people to understand innovation and understand all levels of how innovation can effective when applied correctly. It provided an overview of what innovation is and the barriers that come with it, but it shows how organisations can use it within their work.

Some of the recommendations of the report are:

Innovation should be used to think strategically and plan, with strategies driving innovation and not the other way around

-Agencies should be open about supporting greater innovation

-Agencies should be open and adopt idea management systems

-Procurement processes (act of buying goods, services or works from an external source) should be used to maximise innovative solutions

-support of the Public Sector Innovation Network is critical

After this report came out as a ‘how to’ guide for individuals and organisations, they released a project called APS 200, which authorised a policy with high level authorisation for innovation through recommendations from Empowering Change. Secretaries of each of the Australian Government departments signed the action plan.

Objectives of the project:

  • To develop a more open and collaborative approach to public policy and administration in the APS
  • To integrate innovation into APS work in a more strategic and systematic way
  • To develop and apply the right skill sets to facilitate innovative approaches within the APS
  • To share, recognise and reward innovation in the APS, both to increase learning and to develop a more innovative culture.

From Context for public sector innovation:

Idea Management Software

What happened next?

From the buildup of projects, the Government has been finding more ways to refine and show innovation through extending their knowledge. With the APS 200 project as a foundation, the APS Innovation Action Plan was created.This plan was endorsed by the highest levels of the Australian Public Sector and shows the potential for success through innovation. The Action Plan provided APS with a framework for applying innovation even further and achieving more through the use of it. The action plan released in 2011 was accompanied by a release of the online Public Sector Innovation toolkit. The toolkit was created to provide a range of guidance for public servants.

The toolkit included an innovation diagnostic tool, which helped ideas already out there by selecting and using the most promising of the ideas, by staff identifying where their organisation was strongest and weakest. This tool also provided advice about methods that could be used to improve areas in the organisation identified as weak. Another section is called ‘IDEAS’ (the innovation development early assessment system) which allowed assessment of individual ideas and considering whether they should be used, evaluated or put aside. To do this, you are asked 20 questions about existing knowledge about a select idea and your organisation. The answers to these questions allow an assessment of the areas where you idea needs improvement.

Like many other idea management software platforms, the toolkit also comes with a blog so that people can discuss new ideas and information about applying innovation throughout the public sector. This blog has been running since 2010, and and supports the Public Sector Innovation Network.

All of these tools and frameworks are key components of the platform, which is accompanied by activities and efforts that allow improvement for public servants.

Public Sector innovation is still a journey that is constantly evolving. Their use of applying the basic knowledge of innovation and using it to broaden the concept, has allowed them to successfully apply it to their strategic priorities. With their projects and reports being built on top of one another, they are constantly finding more use for innovation and trying to make it an important conversation. Innovation is always needed, and the imperative is for governments to reduce costs means that innovation is needed more than ever. It means testing of new approaches, and these lessons are available through the Public Sector Innovation Toolkit.

Check out the toolkit here:

Jenni Guzman is resident Idea curator and creator of Content at HunchBuzz – Making Ideas Easy since 2012.

Jenni Guzman

To find out how HunchBuzz Idea Management Software is supporting the Public Sector in Australia – contact Innovation Manager Neil Meekin –

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