Book Review: ‘We the Possibility’ by Mitch Weiss

For my second vaccine shot, I went to a large facility where the workers were cheery and friendly. I was in and out in 20 minutes. The process was very smooth from entry to exit.

It struck me that I take government for granted. When roads are paved, street lights work, and schools function, I take it all for granted. It’s only when things go wrong that you notice it.

If you’re interested in how government can better innovate, meet citizens’ needs, while maintaining their budgets, read We the Possibility by Mitch Weiss. He is a Professor at Harvard Business School and created and teaches the school’s course on public entrepreneurship. Before joining HBS, Mitch was chief of staff to Boston’s Mayor Thomas Menino and spearheaded much of their new programs. In fact, he was a legend there for heading many bold initiatives, which how I first heard his name many years ago.

Large public problems are here and aren’t going away: declining public schools, a warming planet, and creaky infrastructure. Weiss argues that innovation in the public sector is needed and can happen. He cites examples of the entrepreneurial spirit in government and argues that we need to shift from Probability Government (safe programs that create small, incremental changes) to Possibility Government. The latter calls for: 1. Government to see problems as opportunities and to involve citizens to design the solutions, 2. Low-cost tests to analyze potential solutions, and 3. Using government solutions as a platform to scale.

We certainly have no shortage of issues. With budgets tight, government must adopt an entrepreneurial mindset, IMO. I’m excited that Mitch’s book has received excellent reviews. I hope it changes hearts and minds.

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