Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin was a "social worker" to hundreds of social workers at a dialogue yesterday.
For half an hour, he gave them advice as they asked questions such as how to be innovative while managing bureaucracy and risk-averse leaders in organisations.
He was at a Social Work Day event attended by about 600 people. The annual event is organised by the Singapore Association of Social Workers, and the theme for this year was Fostering Innovation In Social Work Practice.
One participant said innovation often requires buy-in from an organisation's leaders, but said they were not open to new ideas.
Mr Tan said: "If you have some level of autonomy, then whatever that sphere of influence may be, exercise the autonomy that you have and innovate within that space...
"Sometimes by doing, you demonstrate to your superiors that this (idea) makes sense, and when you get feedback from clients, it encourages the superiors and gives them confidence."
Another participant said innovation is limited by bureaucracy and asked how to work around this.
Mr Tan said bureaucracy helps to create systems, which then make it easier for ideas to be replicated and scaled up, but added that too much of it is a problem. He suggested that people give feedback so the authorities can fine-tune processes.
In an earlier speech at the event, Mr Tan said innovation was important in social work.
While it is vital to have a heart for people in caring for them, "it's important to have sound minds... to put in place structures and processes to support the work that we do, so that we continue to do good work for a long time", he said.
There are 1,600 registered social workers here, about double the number in 2012. This increase comes after government efforts to improve salaries and training opportunities in the sector.
However, social workers said more can be done by the Government and community partners.
Ms Julia Lee, director of the social work department at Touch Community Services, said: "More support can be given to senior social workers in the area of leadership training and mentoring, to enable them to support junior ones."
Ms See Toh Huixia, assistant director of Awwa Family Service Centre, said: "We've come a long way, but social issues are becoming more complex. We need community partners to give support, in any shape or form."