Seven steps to a (public) entrepreneurial culture

In this blog series we are looking at how to be a public entrepreneur — a practitioner in government who wants to move fast and fix things. Here, we break down some thoughts on how to foster an entrepreneurial culture in government.

In the RSA Lab’s recent report on how to be a public entrepreneur we lay out seven ways to foster an entrepreneurial culture in government, using the RSA’s “think like a system, act like an entrepreneur” model of change as a guide. As Graham Leicester, author of Transformative Innovation says, this role means “acting both as hospice workers for the dying culture and midwives for the new”. This means that the public entrepreneur needs to master the art and practice of maintaining order (keeping the lights on, avoiding turmoil), while completely reinventing “business as usual”.

The seven ways to foster an entrepreneurial culture are:

1: Understand the wider system

  • Start with the problem in the system that needs to be addressed
  • Understand the actors and assets that can be brought to bear
  • Understand and explore the institutions, incentives, and interests that shape behaviour and how they can be influenced.
  • Observe the energy in the system — the forces that are supportive of change and those that are obstacles to it. Where is the readiness in system? Who and what will increase the likelihood of change?

2: Identify incentives

3: Anticipate immunity to change

4: Understand power

5: Create Safe/Fail environments

6: Encourage flexible mindsets

7: Practice agility — build supported learning environments

And an extra eighth one… Find a friend, build a tribe.

“Entrepreneurs are not fixated on destroying the old, although that is typically the effect of their innovation. Their energy is devoted toward creating the new. These change agents usually face substantial skepticism and resistance by incumbents. This, problems with scaling, or simply the inadequate power of the invention may make the entrepreneurs unable on their own to bring about broad societal change.”

Public entrepreneurs are fighting the good fight to make the world a better place. We know that this is a tough job and that changing cultures is no mean feat, so finding friends is vital — and initiatives like One Team Gov go some way to building a field of change-makers. We want to grow this further and widen the network of public entrepreneurs within the RSA fellowship and beyond so do get in touch if you want to be part of this movement.

Follow me @RowanEConway

Head of Mission Oriented Innovation Network at UCL IIPP. Former Director of Innovation at the RSA, on Medium just me.