Entrepreneur – Go Work for Government!


By Shlomo  Maital  

creative city

  The last place entrepreneurs think about, as an employer, is government.  Government is too slow, wasteful, doesn’t work, bureaucratic.  Right? 

   Harvard Business School Senior Lecturer Mitchell B. Weiss disagrees.  He is offering a Harvard course on Public Entrepreneurship.  He knows what he is talking about.  He worked as chief of staff to the late Boston mayor Thomas Menino, a great mayor.  He co-founded the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, which invented America’s first big-city 311 app, in which citizens alert governments to potholes and graffiti. 

   Harvard’s on-line magazine Working Knowledge claims that cities around the world have increasingly become laboratories in innovation, partnering with outside businesses and nonprofits to solve thorny public policy problems.  State and local governments, too, are trying this. 

    Weiss says one reason we don’t have innovative people in government is because “we weren’t training them. In public policy schools we were not training young people to be entrepreneurial, and at business schools we were not prepping or prodding people to enter the public sector or even just to invent for the public realm.”

  He notes that governments should be naturals at crowdsourcing – who has a bigger crowd than government, essentially, everyone?   

   Weiss says, “in government we announce something and wait to get it perfect.  By using more experimental approaches, some public leaders are achieving success by testing and learning, instead of writing a plan in stone before executing it.”

   The Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, is a former entrepreneur, founder of a successful starutp BRM that made and sold early anti-virus software.  The former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg is a highly successful entrepreneur who founded the company named after him.  Both are, and were, highly creative in their terms of office. 

   Weiss says there is a huge opportunity in public entrepreneurship.  Note that this is not social entrepreneurship.  It is taking on operational roles in government, and bringing to the job creative ideas to make people’s lives better.  Why should creativity live and thrive only in the private sector?