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Bottoms up, Bottoms up

Last week our discussion on innovation brought two techniques to the table; top-down innovation and bottom-up innovation. These two ideas basically described where the ideas came from, and whether the trickled down or shot up. After thinking about the terms in that manner, I decided that if a low-rank employee could shoot his ideas all the way up to the top, then that was definitely something worth exploring.

As I went to look for an example of bottom-up innovation, the first one that my search engine showed was Best Buy. I figured that since this is a company that we are all familiar with that it would be interested to see how they have employed this particular technique.

Chris Applegate became a sales associate in 2002 at a Best Buy store in Lakewood, California. As an employee, he brought his store a lot of new ideas, that would eventually travel around the country to other branches. His first idea came from Vonage VOIP services (Vonage is a provider of internet broadband telephone services). Chris then created a Vonage sales and marketing program that spread quickly to other areas in California. His efforts have changed the California consumer by creating a massive increase in Vonage users.

“Chris is practicing Best-Buy’s bottom-up innovation.  For the last several years, Best Buy has been developing this disciplined innovation approach.  Every associate is encouraged to try new ways to increase Best Buy’s sales and profits.  They are rewarded financially when they succeed, and in lots of other ways just for trying. “

This practice has proven very successful for Best Buy, and can be seen in numerous other innovations.

“Like most innovation efforts, the goal of Best Buy’s bottom-up innovation is improved growth and profitability for the company.   And in recent years, Best Buy has been performing quite well along these dimensions, with sales rising about 30% over the two year period from March, 2003 to March, 2005.  During that same period, the company’s operating earnings were up about 50%.”

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Technology and the Globalization of Taste

Theodore Bestor wrote an article entitled “How Sushi Went Global,” in 2000, and after reading it I felt it exemplified some ideals of technology that we have been discussing. Sushi has been at the top of Japanese cuisine for over a thousand years. It originally arose as a way of preserving food. Fish were placed in rice and allowed to ferment, which permitted individuals to keep fish edible for some time. Until the 1960’s there was little mention of Japanese food in the United States media, and when mentioned recipes included cooked shrimp on caraway rye bread rather than the customary raw fish on rice. As technology and innovation were developing post WWII, globalization gave Americans a new appreciation for traditional Japanese cuisine. Continue reading

Enron = normal … accident, that is.

Enron = normal … accident, that is.

A normal accident implies that given an organization, various unpredicted failures will occur.  As we see in Organizations and Organizing, “it is virtually impossible to predict and protect against all the ways in which such systems can fail.”  This term poses a lot of debate, because it is hard for many people to accept that failure is inevitable.  Although many organizations try to prevent any problems through extensive training and simulation, I believe there is no way to possibly account for anything and everything. It’s important that accidents and failures are studied so that most of the glitches can be worked out, but there will always be times when a failure will have to be accepted.  The question is, is Enron a failure we have to accept? Meaning, is it appropriate to say parts of Enron were a normal accident? I believe they were. Continue reading