12 February 2024

Alastair Stark explores institutional memory and institutional forgetting: too much forgetting means lessons are never learned; too much remembering can act as an impediment to trying things again.  

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.

Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission commissioned this article for a special issue of Policy Quarterly on the theme ‘international perspectives on the future of public administration.

Institutional Amnesia in Government: how much is enough?

Authors: Alastair Stark
Format: Journal article
Date published: 12 February 2024