Innovating from the Bottom-Up

Innovation is definitely a complex endeavor that requires the orchestration of multiple dimensions. Without doubt, unless an organization's leadership has thought out the structures, processes, metrics, rewards systems, and knowledge and skills required to advance their innovation agenda, they will not be successful.

However, this is not to say that there's nothing to be done at the front-line of organizations to advance innovation. Interestingly, many instances of innovation occur not because of management, but despite of management!

In this Blog, I'll be sharing some ideas on how innovation can be driven from the bottom-up. It's a long awaited complement to all the important research and literature on how to drive innovation from the top-down.

Let's see what develops.

Ulises Pabon

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Back from the ACA 2009 Conference in Philadelphia

The 2009 conference of the American Creativity Association took place in Philadelphia last week. The cold front brought about 8 inches of snow and impeded some presenters from arriving on time. Nevertheless, as always, we had our share of leading thinkers in the field.

This was the first time the conference was held in Philly. It gave me an opportunity to visit Independence Hall. If you've ever questioned the power of ideas, you need to visit this place. The key debates that gave birth to the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution of the United States took place in this simple and plain room. No complex audio-visual equipment; no PowerPoint slides; just great ideas! Talk about bottom-up innovation!

I delivered my presentation - Innovating from the Bottom - Up - on Monday. We discussed some of the attitudes and behaviors exemplified by bottom-up innovators. These include:

1. The confidence that they can be creative (creativity is not an attribute of the few).
2. The ability to brainstorm "in slow motion", building on ideas as new experiences unfold.
3. An inclination towards 2nd order change, re-framing problems and finding unique solutions.
4. A strong "T" profile, combining depth of knowledge in one discipline with the ability to work with people from different fields of knowledge.
5. A predisposition to experiment and discover new knowledge.

We also talked about how the present forces of networks, co-creation, open innovation, and globalization have created a platform for bottom-up innovation. Although the jury is still out on whether bottom-up innovation can transform an organization, there is no doubt that fostering bottom-up innovation is a great accelerator to top-down innovation initiatives.