This is the first paper in a series dedicated to understanding innovation in public problem solving. American policy elites and the general public are deeply ambivalent about the desirability of bureaucratic innovation in the public sector. Yet there is broad agreement on the need to improve government performance. It is hard to imagine how that can be achieved without both encouraging public servants at all levels to take responsibility for performance and giving them some leeway to pursue it. In turn, it is difficult to imagine how incentives can be altered to encourage such innovation unless elected officials first become convinced that it is compatible with their own political interests.