It's even tougher in environments with the level of governance, public scrutiny and bureaucratic overheads that is seen across much of the public sector.
However the Australian Public Service has been taking steps for a number of years to shake off the shackles and support and foster innovative behaviour, with some very clear successes along the way.
One such success has been Innovation Month - designed several years ago by a bunch of mid-level bureaucrats with senior support and approval) who were passionate about sharing the innovation in their workplaces, and connecting the many innovators and intrapreneurs, and those aspiring to innovate, across the public service.
Fostered and supported by the Public Sector Innovation Network (PSIN), and the Secretaries Board, the month has gone from strength to strength each year.
Another emerging success is this year's inaugural Public Service Innovation Awards, also supported by the Secretaries Board and PSIN and managed by IPAA ACT as an addition to their annual public sector awards.
I've had a very small role as an assessor for the Awards, and was proud to see the level of innovation on display by a number of the applicants.
Most of the entries featured innovations that have had little or no public exposure - the media just isn't interested in public sector successes (or learning experiences that don't result in a big 'bang') and agencies remain poor at promoting their achievements (where the credit is often appropriated by politicians who just happen to be in the right Ministry at the time).
These are all real achievements by real public servants - and they deserve to be recognised, lauded and pestered with questions (on how others can achieve similar great outcomes), for the work they have done.
The finalists have now been selected and have pitched to the judges (armed with training from some of Australia's top pitch professionals) - with the winners to be selected in a few weeks.
I've included the list of the finalists below, and images of the teams are over at the IPAA ACT website.
Keep an eye out for the winners later this month.
Finalists in the Public Sector Innovation Awards