Leadership Course by Social Innovation Lab: What did we learn about bottom-up innovation?

Whether organic or choreographed, innovation cannot be imposed and needs to begin from the bottom!

It is undoubtedly important to create a conducive space for innovation at workplaces to position innovation as an integral part of office culture, which when it comes to BRAC, demands a strong bridge among head office and field offices.

Innovation is an indispensable fuel for development organisations nowadays to stay relevant in this rapidly changing development world.




The bottom-up innovation refers to those innovations which stem from grassroots, basically from the hands-on experience of front-line or field-level managers: The ones who deliver at the end of the chain.

To foster bottom-up innovation at field offices, BRAC Social Innovation Lab has organised 4 pilot workshops, called Leadership Course for Innovation Skills, which inspired 75 field-level managers to practice innovation at workplace.  From this workshop, we have learnt 3 key lessons while listening to the feedback from the field-manager.

Bigger means Farther!

When organisations get bigger, it often gets difficult for Head Office to maintain coordination with the field offices-which ultimately strangle the prospect of bottom-up innovation.

Skills to cross-off!

Most of the field-level managers work directly with the end-users, gain comprehensive knowledge of the product or service and also get some real insights of the overall product/service.Most of the field level managers possess technical skills but the lack of familiarity with design thinking may limit their scope to contribute.

Trainings like the Leadership Course that we designed, enabled the field-level managers to translate their hands-on experience into innovative knowledge creation from the field. Yes just that!

Attitude is Everything!

Office culture plays a big part in creating the right mindset among the field managers. Due to growing distance from head office, the filed managers are often stuck with the notion that innovation stems from the head office, especially from top-level management.

This notion is a clear stymie to develop the right mindset for scanning innovation, especially from the perspective of a field-level manager. (They say we only recognise the colors we learn to detect)

Thus, it is important to organise events, workshops or may be competitions to build a culture of innovation at the organisation.

But what’s going on ‘Now?’

The concept of innovation is still abstract for most of the field managers as they believe innovation is heavily product-oriented.

Often they lose sight of the fact that innovation can be a great medium to streamline or simplify the process of their day-to-day work.

The process can be as simple as introducing Google drive for storing shared information of a team for their convenience, which hardly requires the nod from senior leadership.

A good number of field-level managers have already introduced such innovative approaches on their own, but if a separate drive to promote such practices can be arranged across the whole organisation, it can pave the way for mainstreaming the bottom-up approach in any big organisation.

The Silver lining! (Not SIL-ver Lining)

It will be unrealistic to think that the culture of creating bottom-up innovations can be brought about overnight within an organisation, but these surely can be a good first step to foster innovation across and throughout!

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Salman is a seasoned volunteer and leadership enthusiast. He loves to write on issues where business concepts interact with social impact.

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