Innovating the future
The spring 2009 issue of The Public Manager kicks off a new feature. Each quarter, I will share the work
of others who help leading public-sector organizations around the globe improve customer and citizen
experience, create better services, and increase efficiency by transforming the way they do business.
Working with government and non-governmental organizations worldwide, these individuals are exposed
to a wide range of innovative and transformational strategies designed to achieve positive results.
This issue features an experience related by Martin Stewart-Weeks, a colleague of mine at Cisco posted in Syd-
ney, Australia. As he reflected on a public services summit of senior government leaders from around the world,
Martin interpreted what he heard as an “increasingly urgent wake-up call to government and the public sector.”
Government must redouble its efforts to learn about the changes taking place (including the pace of such changes
and their impact), understand them thoroughly, and rapidly reform its systems and culture to respond. Or it can watch
its relevancy and legitimacy erode.
—Alan P. Balutis
Edgecentric, or How to
Govern and Thrive in
Dynamic and Uncertain Times
by Martin Stewart-Weeks
t is instructive in these unpredictable times to consider the answer to a simple question: “Is
government part of the solution or part of the problem?”
For some, the answer is easy. Governments around the world intervene to save the bank-
ing and insurance systems, bail out car makers, cut taxes, and pump cash into the pockets of
consumers to refloat the imploding retail and housing sectors. So the answer is pretty straight-
forward. Not only is government part of the solution, there are few alternatives in sight.
But the predictable answer may be misleading. While we are busy rediscovering the vir-
tues of public action, the assumptions on which those virtues rely are shifting. Mesmerized
by the comfortable swing of the pendulum between “less government” and “more govern-
ment,” we haven’t noticed that this time the pendulum is swinging to a new and unfamiliar
The answer to the simple question at the beginning might be more complicated than we
thought, more along these lines: “Yes, government will be part of the solution, but only as
long as it is prepared to change its approach and behavior, in some cases quite profoundly. If it
doesn’t accept that challenge, it will indeed become part of the problem or at least increasingly
irrelevant to the search for effective responses to the problems we’re trying to fix.”
THE PUBLIC MANAGER F SPRING 2009 93