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

Friday, May 15, 2009

Are you aware of your value field?

Work is full of activities. We receive requests from customers, read reports, move stuff from one place to another, go to meetings, gather materials, complete forms, etc., etc., etc.

However, only a fraction of those activities actually add value to our clients. (Follow this link for a discussion of non-value-added activities at

Once we realize that a lot of what we do does not add value, we become more sensitive, and can easily recognize, when and where we are actually engaging in value-added activity. If you're a supervisor, the spot you're at when you're face-to-face providing direction or feed-back to an employee is your value field; the distance you walked to get there is not. If you're a car mechanic, the precise area in the motor you're working at, is your value field; the area you move around to get your tools is not. Your value field is the exact "micro-spot" you're at when you are adding value.

Bottom-up innovators recognize their value fields as prime targets for innovation. They know they have a high degree of influence at their value field and that improving what they do at their value field translates into improvements to the organization’s offering or value proposition.

Many top-down improvement efforts concentrate on eliminating non-value-added activities. There is nothing wrong with this. To be sure, significant cost and efficiency improvements can be achieved by eliminating non-value-added activities. However, by concentrating on their circle of influence, bottom-up innovators don’t have to wait for top-down programs to ignite an innovation revolution. They focus their creative thinking towards what they do within their value fields and how they do it. Since they are naturally empowered within their value field, they feel free to challenge the status quo and invent the future.

I’ll come back to this concept in the near future. Meanwhile, think about your work and try to identify your value fields. Be specific. Once you’ve identified your value field, you’ll be one step closer to becoming a bottom-up innovator.

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