When a company stops innovating, it stops growing. But precisely where does that innovation come from? In some cases, a single individual becomes the ‘heart and soul’ of a company, directing and inspiring growth and innovation. And for a while, that works, but it’s simply not sustainable. By the same token, strict ‘top-down’ models tend to be limited in scope, and not get the feedback needed from front-line stakeholders to be realistic, especially when it comes to innovative thinking.
A ‘reverse waterfall’ strategy solves this dilemma and delivers the best of both worlds in terms of meaningful innovation, cost savings and improvements on an end-to-end basis. Setting priorities is naturally the domain of the C-suite, but once those priorities are set, they are sent down the line throughout the organization. With proper implementation and enough support from higher levels, what happens next is nothing short of phenomenal. Armed with support, resources, empowerment and defined priorities, ideas from the ‘shop floor’ will flow back upwards, be captured, implemented and measured for impact.
The result is that those great ideas that often come out of the departmental level actually get heard by those that can make it happen. And those innovators don’t need to ‘go rogue.’ They will, under this strategy, have the guidance and support of the C-suite, and those great ideas will be more likely to be integrated into a broader strategy. This holistic approach to business innovation has been shown to deliver solid, measurable results and meaningful improvements across the board. In one case in the medical device industry, this strategy resulted in a six million dollar cost savings to one division over a six-month period.
Yes, the strategy works. And yet as is often said, ‘The devil is in the details’. Like any strategy, the ‘reverse waterfall’ strategy’s success depends on several factors including thoughtful leadership, overcoming barriers to teamwork, and implementing the right type of progress metrics that measure not only results but the key drivers of success.
Read the entire original article published by Innovation Enterprise and written by Charles Leichtweis, Senior Advisor