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

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Ultimate Resource

What does a farmer in Peru have in common with a software engineer in China? Or with a piano artisan in Estonia? Or with a housewife in India?

They were all featured in a National Geographic In Focus documentary titled The Ultimate Resource. The main thesis of the documentary is that people - individuals - are the main resource of this planet. And that when individuals are empowered with the freedom to own property and the freedom to exchange the fruit of their labor in a free market, they can escape the chains of poverty and lead a productive life.

Among others, the Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, is featured in the film. Muhammad Yunus invented micro-lending; and has helped hundreds of families in India launch small businesses through his Grameen Bank.

As I watched the documentary, I couldn't avoid connecting the ideas exposed in the film with the concept of Bottom-Up Innovation. Is there a lesson here for management? Why do we continue to run organizations as a country under totalitarian rule? Why do many managers speak about empowerment but act as dictators? What would be possible if organizations embraced the ideas of a free market?

It just dawned on me that these same questions have been addressed before by Russel Ackoff in his 1994 book: The Democratic Corporation. Back then, when I read it, I was impressed by his idea. However, I read it from a perspective of Systems Thinking and Organizational Transformation. I'll need to pull it from my collection and review it with the eyes of Bottom-Up Innovation. I'm sure I'll find in it a treasure or two.