How the Entrepreneurial Mindset and Government Innovation Can Work

Speaker on stage in front of a large audience.
Entrepreneurship is for everyone.

Government and business have inherently different goals. Yet this doesn’t mean that business mindsets like entrepreneurship can or should be set aside. In fact, they can often be crucial, in the right context, to better government and superior service to the public, especially when developing an innovation process. Here are five aspects of entrepreneurship that government employees can bring to the table.

Building Relationships

Entrepreneurs are overwhelmingly people who build relationships, make connections between others, and work on the principle of a rising tide lifts every boat. Similarly, the public sector needs to form strong connections between itself and a constellation of stakeholders, from local non-profits and charities to private business. Encouraging relationship-building brings more groups to the table, and thus a more informed approach to public innovation.

This is true internally, as well. Departments should be encouraged to network both across divisions and up and down the professional chain so that if somebody in the field has an idea, someone in the office can act on it.

Commitment From Leadership

This can easily be overlooked, since many entrepreneurs are heads of their own companies. Yet commitment from the top levels of government encourages more people to engage and to become aware of the topic at hand. Public or private, everyone on a team takes a cue from the leader, so leadership engagement will make the difference.

Asking Questions

Any great business was founded on answering the right question of the right group, no matter how simple that question may seem. Encouraging feedback from as many groups as possible can help drive any government innovation process, especially as you sift through the responses and thoughts while looking for common patterns.

Similarly, don’t hesitate to ask hard questions internally. This is especially important when an idea is set aside. The question shouldn’t be, “Why didn’t this work?” Instead, it should be, “What did we learn from this approach that we can apply going forward?”

Speaker at a podium.
Everyone deserves a chance to weigh in.

Setting Clear Goals

Asking any entrepreneur what their company does will get you a crisp, detailed answer, one that’s likely been polished through years of experience, testing, and thought. These clear goals are useful anywhere, but particularly so in government, where often larger goals, such as better serving the people, need to be broken down into more specific approaches. How do the people want to be served? What are they most interested in seeing from their government?

Knowing this will be essential to driving your work, and may have some surprising results. Sentiments among constituents can change over time, and so should your goals.

Creating A Cycle

Any entrepreneur will tell you that their work is never done. The first version of their product on the market isn’t the last word or even all the way there. Products will continuously be refined, features added on or changed as needs shift, and as new markets open. Governments should treat their innovation process as a similar cycle, where once something is implemented, it’s thoroughly considered, refined, and applied elsewhere. Nothing improves by resting on its laurels, and an innovation process is no different.

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