Sometimes a Good Idea is Just a Good Idea, Period.

I’m going to start out by admitting that I’m sort of a business-averse person. Thinking about things like “how do we make more money by manipulating people through clever advertising schemes?!” give me the heebie-jeebies. So I was a bit hesitant, maybe likely biased, when approaching the readings for this week, thinking that they would be just polished, trendy, shiny “business-speak” all wrapped up with a bow that wouldn’t really have much of a lasting impact (in the long run) for those types of organizations that I care deeply about.

Hmm. Maybe I shouldn’t think of innovation as trendy.

As Kelley and Littman, the authors of The Ten Faces of Innovation, contend: “all great movements are ultimately human-powered”. Yes, even multinational corporations are run by humans, right? After all, there must be a reason that the humans behind The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies are growing their businesses — and their bottom lines — by the day or even by the hour while 50 libraries on any given day are likely facing the chopping block. I’m not convinced that a business-oriented approach should always be lauded as the perfect ideal (e.g., “look at what this successful business has done — let’s just do exactly the same thing!”) but I’m willing to explore cases where a good idea is just a good idea, period. So what is the business world doing right? What can libraries learn about innovation from these examples? How can we reshape our action plans, our implementation strategies, our approaches to even thinking about our problems or goals (or both)?

This last one might be a good place to start.

How do we change our thinking unless we recognize when the opportunity arises to change our thinking? How do we create a culture where looking for opportunities to innovate is not only a goal, but it’s actually expected?

Kelley and Littman note the importance of “seizing innovation opportunities” and “‘being innovation’ rather than merely ‘doing innovation'”. This is all well and good. But how do I “be innovation”!? How do I “Vuja De”!? How do I “drop my skepticism and tap into a childlike curiosity and open-mindedness” everyday in a workplace that breeds skepticism and shuns curiosity and open-mindedness as things that “only you young people care about?” Cue a deep breath.

Maybe it’s the little things. Maybe it’s just starting with a few questions:

  • When we bend the rules, what has given us reason to bend them?
  • When we collect data, are we using it to learn or to check a box?
  • When we fail, do we embrace it and build upon it in the same way we do success?
  • When we share new visions, do we “see the idea inside” or get hung up on the details?
  • When we observe, do we realize what we haven’t been looking for?
  • When we connect, are we cross-pollinating?
  • When we listen, are we “assessing the present” or “foreseeing the future”?
  • When we say “well, that’s just the way things are”, who are we really saying it to: our patrons, our stakeholders, ourselves?

So. What do the answers to these questions mean for us?

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