Discovering Innovation Beyond the Office Walls


Inspiration in the workplace can be hard to come by these days. One thing is for sure – you won’t find it using the same top-down leadership routine!

With the corporate world seeing a major structural shake-up during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no wonder leaders why are beginning to question outdated processes. This includes how C-Suite and business leaders cultivate and harvest their ideas. The horizons of workstyle potential are broadening and business owners are realizing that innovation (more often than not) can be found outside of the existing office walls.

Why “Because I said so” Doesn’t Work Anymore
A new generation of leaders have been appointed to management positions. During their formative years, this group of managers was (more or less) raised to question authority and follow a natural curiosity regarding the world. It’s this new mindset that is being applied by leaders across the corporate world as they start to question how things are done.

New leaders are looking for ways to better motivate employees, increase productivity, and boost team morale. The entrepreneurial spirit has taught leaders to encourage all voices and opinions in the workplace regardless of rank. This new leadership style laughs in the face of the “because I said so” top-down management style of generations past.

The Drawbacks of a Top-Down Management Style
While the top-down management style is the most familiar to us – it does come with several drawbacks. Here are a few of the most common.

  • Losing out on great ideas. This is a common occurrence in top-down management when those lower in rank neither feel confident nor respected enough to speak their mind. You could be losing out on some great ideas, valuable feedback, or an opportunity to tweak your idea to become the next big thing!
  • Employee engagement is often low. Employees who don’t feel fulfilled at work in terms of accomplishments will seek engagement elsewhere. While your team may do what they’re told in a top-down management style, there is no room for creatives to carve out their niche.
  • Singular knowledge cripples an organization. Top-down management encourages those in leadership positions to hoard their knowledge and fear being usurped. Any threat to power can destabilize the top-down model, which includes shared knowledge and expertise of the job. The major downside to this is that if a leader leaves an organization, then there is no one internal who feels confident enough to take over the position. It can be costly and time-consuming to fill the role depending on the expertise required.
  • Micromanagement kills innovation. This style of top-down management encourages “oversight” which can often blend into an unhealthy micromanagement style. Employees who feel consistently watched (and feel a perceived lack of ability to make their own choices) may become apathetic. Even worse… micromanaged employees often leave for greener pastures.

Alternatives to Top-Down Management Styles

  • Outside-in Management: The outside-in management style focuses neither on the employees nor the leaders. It’s an approach that prioritizes customers and their experience with products or services. This management style is guided by the people who will single-handedly support your business over time. It’s an unorthodox approach that relies heavily on customer feedback loops – but outside-in management also can eliminate internal biases at an organization.
  • Sideways Management: This management style focuses on continuous improvement in a linear fashion. Sideways management is most commonly employed in a manufacturing environment where employees can make strategic decisions on the factory line. However, it can be applied to other workplaces by empowering employees to review and improve processes over time that are specific to their realm of expertise. As a manager, it’s important to encourage this “do-it-yourself with my guidance” mindset.
  • Bottom-up Management: This management style relies on trust and often fosters the highest amount of innovation. Instead of a dictatorship leader style, business owners must focus on empowering employees to find their niche and value. This management style allows employees to discover their purpose, experiment with innovation, and feel comfortable bringing forward ideas or opinions to the C-suite. Many see this style of leadership as the ideal for the future as corporations continue to evolve.

Ready to try a new leadership style?
There’s no harm in trying new styles – especially if you’re a dynamic start-up or have a smaller team to manage. Business owners may do well to consider a bottom-up management approach to ensure that their employees feel heard, validated, and fulfilled. This is especially true at a time when burnout and churn rate are high at companies. It’s an employee’s job market and they aren’t going to let you forget it if you fail them as a leader with your management style.

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