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Using old stuff in new ways: Innovation as a case of evolutionary tinkering

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  • Mary Bryna Sanger
  • Martin A. Levin

Abstract

We analyze more than 25 successful innovations and innovators and draw three principle lessons. First, innovation does not spring from systematic policy analysis nor is it generally a revolutionary breakthrough. Innovation more often depends upon evolutionary tinkering with existing practices. It results, therefore, from a process of trial and error and experimential learning in the field. Its novelty arises from the assemblage of familiar stuff in new ways. Second, analysis is more useful in shaping effective policy by evaluating it as it develops rather than in choosing between competing policies ahead of time. Third, innovative public managers are entrepreneurial; they take risks with this old stuff, with an opportunistic bias toward action and a conscious underestimating of the bureaucratic and political obstacles their innovations face. We conclude with prescriptions for how public managers ought to be trained and how they ought to behave.

Suggested Citation

  • Mary Bryna Sanger & Martin A. Levin, 1992. "Using old stuff in new ways: Innovation as a case of evolutionary tinkering," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 11(1), pages 88-115.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:11:y:1992:i:1:p:88-115 DOI: 10.2307/3325134
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    2. Blau, David M. & Tekin, Erdal, 2001. "The Determinants and Consequences of Child Care Subsidies for Single Mothers," IZA Discussion Papers 383, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Eide, Eric R. & Showalter, Mark H., 2001. "The effect of grade retention on educational and labor market outcomes," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(6), pages 563-576, December.
    4. Rachel Connelly & Jean Kimmel, 2003. "The Effect of Child Care Costs on the Employment and Welfare Recipiency of Single Mothers," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 69(3), pages 498-519, January.
    5. Jean Kimmel, 1998. "Child Care Costs As A Barrier To Employment For Single And Married Mothers," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(2), pages 287-299, May.
    6. Gordon Cleveland & Morley Gunderson & Douglas Hyatt, 1996. "Child Care Costs and the Employment Decision of Women: Canadian Evidence," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 29(1), pages 132-151, February.
    7. Lisa M. Powell, 2002. "Joint Labor Supply and Childcare Choice Decisions of Married Mothers," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 37(1), pages 106-128.
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    Cited by:

    1. Djellal, Faridah & Gallouj, Faïz & Miles, Ian, 2013. "Two decades of research on innovation in services: Which place for public services?," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 27(C), pages 98-117.
    2. FaÏz Gallouj, 2012. "Service: innovation, performance and public policy," Working Papers hal-01111765, HAL.
    3. Faridah Djellal & FaÏz Gallouj, 2009. "Les réseaux d’innovation public-privé dans les services (RIPPS) ne sont pas des réseaux d’innovation (RI) comme les autres : quels enseignements pour les politiques publiques ?," Post-Print halshs-01113944, HAL.
    4. repec:eur:ejserj:313 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Benoy Jacob & Eric Welch & Terence Simms, 2009. "Emergent Management Strategies in a Public Agency: A Case Study of Alternative Fuel Vehicles," Public Organization Review, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 213-234, September.

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