How we can learn policy innovation? (Guest Blog by Simon Watts)

Entrepreneurs drive innovation

The Austrian-born economist Joseph Schumpeter is the father of economic innovation. In 1911 he published the first description of innovation through creative destruction, generating new products and forms of organisation that displaced older forms and created new value. For Schumpeter, the entrepreneur delivers innovation through creating novelty and developing new solutions and products. Policy entrepreneurship is a mechanism for engaging with complexity and change in policy problems (e.g. climate change, water and food security) and of creating innovative policy solutions.

Why innovation is important?

The OECD has found that innovation was the major driver of productivity growth internationally in the decade 1997 to 2006. In the UK, the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts has found that two-thirds private sector productivity growth between 2000 and 2007 was a result of innovation. Innovation is now identified as the engine of the global economy. The World Economic Forum has positioned innovation and entrepreneurship as key contributors to solving the challenges of globalisation in the 21st Century – to identify and pursue opportunities in new and paradigm changing ways. Education is a key catalyst for greater innovation. Innovation is indisputably important, but how can we learn to innovate?

Entrepreneur thinking: how do they do it?

Entrepreneurs have a confidence and belief that they can solve problems and develop new ideas. Entrepreneurs develop personal scripts that provide them with reference points to guide their actions and decision making.  Entrepreneurs effectively perceive, organise and use information from their environment to search for and identify opportunities for creating or developing new ideas, solutions and opportunities. Self-efficacy beliefs and intentions are the most important element of entrepreneurial behaviour – a confidence in their ability to face unexpected challenges.

The policy entrepreneur

Policy entrepreneurs promote policy ideas and policy innovations onto government agendas. They advocate significant policy change using social skills, their capacity to define problems in new and compelling ways, through building capable teams, and through leading by example. Policy entrepreneurs play active policy roles: engaging in creative destruction, articulating new ideas and narratives, creating and implementing new ideas, creating spill-over and diffusion, and acting in seemingly intangible and unique ways.

Learning policy innovation

The World Economic Forum has called for entrepreneurship education that mixes experiential learning, skill building and, most importantly, mindset shift. Entrepreneurship is nurtured through peers at school, and through family mentoring and early exposure to entrepreneurship and innovation. Trusted partners with whom new ideas can be exchanged are important in supporting innovation. Learning is at the heart of innovation processes – including learning by searching, learning by doing and learning by interacting. The most critical elements in developing innovations are communication, collaboration, and developing and maintaining relationships that support learning for innovation.

I’m very interested in developing a learning collaboration for supporting policy innovation. Who else has an interest in developing supportive relationships for building policy entrepreneurship?

Simon Watts is a PhD student at the University of Newcastle. Simon is passionate about supporting communities and his day job involves nurturing innovations in service provision. You can contact him by email at simon.watts@uon.edu.au or connect on LinkedIn.

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