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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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    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. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. repec:eur:ejserj:313 is not listed on IDEAS

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