Institutional Amnesia in Government

How much is enough?




Institutional amnesia, Organisational memory, Public policy, Public sector performance, Historical storytelling


The concept of institutional amnesia represents a means of describing the loss of policy-relevant knowledge across time. This loss is keenly felt in all government institutions and typically leads to a conclusion that institutional amnesia is a problem to be fixed. However, there are positives that can be associated with a lack of memory. This article explores the good and the bad of memory loss by asking ‘how much amnesia is enough?’ This question prompts a discussion of the nature of amnesia in government, where it is most keenly felt, what causes it and the effects it produces.


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Author Biography

Alastair Stark, University of Queensland

Alastair Stark is an associate professor in public policy at the University of Queensland. His current research focuses on policy learning and the nature of institutional memory in public services.