Continuing on my theme from the last post, the second principle is:
Know your own strengths and limitations and pursue self improvement – You can seek self improvement by discussion with experienced personnel, by reading regulations, and by being enthusiastic and striving to do the best you can.
This one is pretty interesting, especially in a time of fiscal constraint. Courses cost money. Too often we equate self-improvement with courses. We need to do this course at the CSPS, or attend that conference so that we can learn more. There is much more to learning and development — and very little of it actually needs to cost money.
Everyone has their obscure area of knowledge that they really enjoy (for some reason). Mine, odd as it is, generally involves machinery of government. I’m fascinated by it. How ideas move through our large system, and which players need to be involved at what point, is the source of endless wonder to me. But I learned very little about machinery from courses. I had someone ask me once if I could recommend a course to them on this type of material, but I didn’t really have one.
My obscure knowledge, though, doesn’t come from any type of special access. There are documents out there that we can use to educate ourselves, but they may be hidden in the heaps of information that we encounter every day. For example, here are some documents that have informed my thinking on government and policy:
- Public Service Reductions in the 1990s — http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/LOP/ResearchPublications/2010-20-e.htm
- Making Policy Better — http://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/publications/28/making-policy-better
- An Inconvenient Renewal — http://sites.google.com/site/aninconvenientrenewal/
- Scheming Virtuously — http://www.slideshare.net/govloop/scheming-virtuously-8774968
- Civil Servant 2.0 — http://api.ning.com/files/j8isrYTD1gKgWBE7i2qmYhTXlWd45ExM*v7-8uXVfuOMwo8kjaOW9sascpHM*IkbLkhb9KchUvIe5gxyoGROF-CuU0b*SnPe/CivilServant2.0.pdf/
These are just a few of the documents that I’ve found helpful. From official documents from Canadian government departments, to the musings of bureaucrats, to the think tanks. Taking the time to read and talk about these types of documents keeps us sharp — constantly questioning the sytsem and how it can be improved.
Not that I agree with all of them (in some cases, I think the premise of some of the recommendations are terrible), but they provide a useful challenge function for my own thinking on government and the policy development process.
What’s your reading list? What’s the most influential thing you’ve read that helped you to improve or build new skills?