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Inspiring Innovation–2

The next two presentations had a more “how to do it” flavor than the first two.  Adam Shambaugh and Jill Luedke from Temple University looked at methods for capturing idea and acting on them.

Adam Shambaugh and Jill Luedke

Adam noted that the concept of a “fuzzy front end” (FFE) for innovation is the subject of a number of academic research publications.  It really describes the period when ideas are in their infancy–between first generation of an idea and when it is ready for development. The FFE is an unsettling environment because the ideas are ill-defined, and there is a lot of change and uncertainty.

3 stages of the fuzzy front end:

1. Ideas can come from hunches, observations, and even accidents. It is important that ideas are captured at the generation stage.
2. Give and receive feedback about ideas.
3. Ideas move from abstract to the applied realm.

Adam’s suggestions for managing the FFE:

1. Consider many possibilities for fuzzy ideas. They are qualitative, informal, and approximate. No idea should be rejected at this early state.
2. Build an information system and establish a communication system, which will reduce resistance to new ideas.
3. Acquire internal cooperation and support, which will give you a broader perspective on innovation and reduce later conflict. Change will be smoother, more efficient, and less time consuming.

Jill followed with a description of what they have done at Temple University.  First, they held a public services retreat and started the “Capture an Idea” project, after which they had a followup retreat to decide next steps. Each participant was given a notebook (“The Idea Book”) in which to write their ideas.  The next step was to create a Temple Library Experience blog for people to post their ideas and pictures of interesting things they encountered. The second retreat was to capture, share, and act on the ideas. An “Idea Wall”, or place to write notes of ideas, was created. A vote was taken on the best ideas, and the top three were taken for discussion and action.  The first idea was to create a task force to fix what was broken, which led to creation of a “fix it” team to fix things that fall through the cracks. A FixIt listserv was created.

Why should you capture ideas?  Some reasons are:  so you won’t forget, to generate more idea, to create a tangible “idea” to share, and for “percolation–to allow the idea to simmer.

What to capture: problems you encounter, both in and outside the library (you don’t need to have the answer), behaviors you observe, especially unexpected ones, questions you get asked repeatedly, complaints you receive, and cool stuff.

Ideas should be captured by writing them down, sending yourself an e-mail, putting them into a Google Docs file, texting them to yourself, tweeting them, saying them, photographing them, or recording them.  Helpful tools to use include Evernote, Catch, and Springpad.  It is important to keep your “to do” list separate from your idea list.

Lessons learned:

  • Suggest various platforms for capturing. Don’t assume people know what to do.
  • Make capturing accessible.
  • Make sharing accessible.
  • Give suggestions on what to capture.
  • Give incentives for capturing.
  • Be inclusive, especially the capturing part.

The final session in this track that I attended was a pair of excellent presentations, one by Chris Olson, a marketing consultant, and Barbara Ferry, Director of the library at the National Geographic Society.

Chris Olson (L) and Barbara Ferry (R)

Chris Olson presented a list of existing resources for existing ideas on innovation:

See for an example of a very innovative public library in Colorado that has won many awards. They have an “anythinktank” and are acting like a community center for innovation.  And when all else fails…use google. Search “2012 innovations in …” (try electrohic fabric, social networking garments)

Classic reads: How Breakthroughs Happen, and Beyond the Obvious.

Barbara Ferry described how the National Geographic Library faced major downsizing and space reductions in 2009 and has innovated for a sustainable future. The library lost 10 staff, and its space was reduced by 40% within 6 months because of the economic downturn, loss of advertising revenue, and restructuring which caused overhead expenses to rise. The effect on the library staff was huge:

Ferry became manager shortly after the reductions were implemented.  She began rebuilding by listening to the staff (without reading their performance evaluations first) and meeting with each staff member for 1 to 2 hours.  She reviewed evolving Society goals and met with management and kept the best of the library’s services.  Some services were eliminated, and others evolved into different ones.  Staff experience was leveraged to move into new areas.  A partnership with Gale was formed, and a “library commons” area is under development.

Transitions inevitably create problems, but problems can be investments for the future.  Here are Barbara’s conclusions:



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