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What are the optimal conditions for commercializing technology breakthroughs? How can we develop a common framework among universities, government, and businesses for generating fundamentally fresh insights? How can the government maximize the public’s return on research and development investments? Innovation is a important topic in both the public and the private sectors, yet no one can agree the best path forward for it. We present a brief excerpt from Organized Innovation: A Blueprint for Renewing America’s Prosperity by Steven C. Currall, Ed Frauenheim, Sara Jansen Perry, and Emily M. Hunter.
Professor Mark Humayun and his colleagues have created a small device with a big story to tell. It is an artificial retina, whose electronics sit in a canister smaller than a dime, and that literally allows the blind to see. The device also reflects a new approach to innovation that can help America find its way to a more hopeful, prosperous future.
During the late 1980s, Humayun was in medical school preparing to be a neurosurgeon. But his grandmother’s loss of vision put him on a quest to create technology that would help people see again. He switched his focus to ophthalmology, earned his MD, and imagined an implant to send digital images to the optic nerve. But when he asked biomedical engineers to help him develop such a device, he found they spoke a different language.
“I remember trying to tell them I wanted to pass a current to stimulate the retina. I wanted to excite neurons in a blind person’s eyes. They looked at me and said, ‘What?’” he recalls. “I couldn’t communicate what I wanted.” So Humayun did something that remains rare among American researchers: he crossed over into a different discipline. He earned a doctorate in biomedical engineering at the University of North Carolina.
By 1992 Humayun and his team of fellow researchers, then at Johns Hopkins University, had a rudimentary prototype of an artificial retina. But they still had a long ways to go. In 2001, Humayun and his key collaborators moved to the University of Southern California to continue their work on the retinal prosthesis. Humayun also helped form a start-up company, Second Sight, which aimed to commercialize the implant. And in 2003 Humayun and his colleagues won a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to launch a research center to pursue retinal prostheses and other potential medical implants.
The Argus II artificial retina can restore a form of sight to patients with retinitis pigmentosa. Image courtesy of Second Sight Medical Products.
That center—the Biomimetic MicroElectronic Systems program—is part of a broader National Science Foundation initiative called the Engineering Research Center (ERC) program. The ERC program embodies government research funding as well as principles of planning, teamwork, and smart management. And it has quietly achieved remarkable success, returning to the US economy more than tenfold the $1 billion invested in it between 1985 and 2009.
The USC-based ERC prompted researchers to put their basic research projects on a path toward commercial prototypes. It also cultivated connections between academics and private- sector executives, as well as between researchers of different disciplines. And it provided funding for ten years—much longer than the typical academic grant.
During Humayun’s leadership of the ERC, his team hit several milestones. Most visibly, the artificial retina won approval from regulators in Europe and the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, and began changing people’s lives. The BBC broadcast a segment of a once-blind grandmother playing basketball—and making shots—with her grandson. The video went viral.
As Humayun and his team expand into other applications of artificial implants, the possibilities resemble science fiction—for example, improving short-term memory loss, headaches, and depression. In short, Humayun and his ERC team remind us that America can achieve fundamental technology breakthroughs—the sort that improve lives, launch new industries and create good jobs.
But we must improve our innovation efforts. Global competition has intensified in recent years, as other nations have ramped up their technology commercialization capabilities. At the same time, the U.S. innovation ecosystem has devolved into an unorganized, suboptimal approach. An “innovation gap” has emerged in recent decades, where U.S. universities focus on basic research and industry concentrates on incremental product development. This book aims to give U.S. leaders a blueprint for closing that gap and improving our ability to compete.
Based on the successes of the Biomimetic MicroElectronic Systems center and other ERCs, we have developed a framework we call Organized Innovation. Organized Innovation is a systematic method for leading the translation of scientific discoveries into societal benefits through commercialization. At its core is the idea that we can, to a much greater extent than generally thought possible, organize the conditions for technology breakthroughs that lead to new products, companies, and world-leading industries.
Organized Innovation consists of three pillars, or “three Cs”:
Channeled Curiosity refers to the marriage of curiosity-driven research and strategic planning.
Boundary-Breaking Collaboration refers to a radical dismantling of traditional research and academic silos to spur collective creativity and problem solving.
Orchestrated Commercialization means coaxing the different players, including researchers, entrepreneurs, financial investors, and corporations so that they make innovations real for global use.
If we can recognize the importance of Organized Innovation, we are confident the United States can restore its vision as a technology leader, revitalize its economy and employment levels, and help to resolve pressing global problems. We are confident, in other words, that America can produce many more big breakthroughs like the small device created by Mark Humayun and his colleagues.
Steven C. Currall is Dean and Professor at the Graduate School of Management at University of California, Davis; Ed Frauenheim is Content & Curation Specialist for the Great Place to Work Institute; Sara Jansen Perry is Assistant Professor of Management at the University of Houston-Downtown; and Emily Hunter is Assistant Professor at the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University. They are the co-authors of Organized Innovation: A Blueprint for Renewing America’s Prosperity, published by Oxford University Press.
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I've been conferencing a loooonnnng time at ALA. I agree with colleagues posting and tweeting, this conference was a win in every way for youth librarians.
Maybe because this is the first newly compressed conferences - fewer days and fewer sessions sponsored by units and almost all programs held at the conference center itself. This seems to make it possible to attend more events than ever before.
Maybe the addition and continued support for member-driven content (ignite sessions, uncommons, conversation starters) that resulted in great youth presentations. The unit-supported content was pretty amazing as well.
Maybe because groups of librarians connected through blogs, the twitterverse and groups like EL, ALATT and Flannel Friday reached the perfect storm of connectivity creating kismet meet-up moments and IRL chat.
So, despite substantial time spent fulfilling my responsibilities as ALA chapter councilor for my state, I have to say that this conference was an amazing, robust and energetic one for youth librarians.
This doesn't even begin to address the ALSC and YALSA supported programs, the exhibits, committee work, the auditorium speaker series...and just everything.
There was energy and innovation and excitement - not just to see each other but to strategize what else we can do to be uber superhero librarians back in our communities and looking at the future. I talked about this kind of collaborative energy here and here.
And while I celebrate attending conferences, I also think we do so much outside of conferences to stay fabulous and tuned in and inventive. So whether you were at ALA or not, the doors are open for you to walk through!
Mel from Mel's Desk gets at the core of what I LOVE about this at-conference-and-not-at-conference paradigm in what I believe will be THE blog post on personal learning, connecting with those who share your passion and empowerment for the next decade. Conferences like ALA are one way to connect and learn - but there are so many other ways too that happen everyday when we reach outside our workplace and connect. Let's go and let's do it.
Those fabulous youth services leaders Amy Koester, Cory Eckert and Kendra Jones have just "officialized" Guerrila Storytime in it's own fabulous website, Storytime Underground
Not content to just invent Guerilla Storytime and premiere it at Chicago ALA, these ninjas have created a space to share storytime tips and tricks, best practices and materials and all-around support each other around a service that the vast majority of libraries offer - storytime!
Stop here and get excited about sharing YOUR mad storytime skillz in this new movement!
“Organized” and “innovation” are words rarely heard together. But an organized approach to innovation is precisely what America needs today, argue Steve Currall, Ed Frauenheim, Sara Jansen Perry, and Emily Hunter. We sat down with the authors of Organized Innovation: A Blueprint for Renewing America’s Prosperity to discuss why American ought to organize its innovation efforts.
Why does America need a more organized innovation system today?
An “innovation gap” has emerged in recent decades — where US universities focus on basic research, and industry concentrates on incremental product development. At the same time, the stakes have risen around technology invention and commercialization. Innovation has become more central to the economic health of nations, but the rate of US innovation is slowing while that if other nations is accelerating. Since 2008, the number of foreign-origin patents that the US Patent and Trademark Office has granted annually has surpassed the number of domestic-origin patents. Between 1999 and 2009, the US share of global research and development spending dropped, while the share of Asia as a whole rose and exceeded the US share in 2009.
What’s behind this innovation gap?
In a nutshell, history and a set of myths held by many in the United States. The gap dates to the 1970s and 1980s, as big US companies retreated from basic research and focused on incremental product development. The shift had to do with a greater focus on short-term financial results, as well as increased competitive pressures. Research fell to the universities, but academic research often remains within particular disciplines, conducted in a vacuum that minimizes societal needs. Too often academic research does not make the leap beyond the lab to the real world. For years, observers have noticed the widening gap, but it has not been addressed. We think that has much to do with three myths—that innovation is about lone geniuses, the free market, and serendipity. These myths blind us from seeing that we tolerate an unorganized, less-than-optimal system of innovation.
What do you propose as a solution?
We call it Organized Innovation. It is a blueprint for better coordinating the key players in the US innovation ecosystem: universities, businesses, and government. The solution taps the power of both the private and public sectors to generate groundbreaking innovations—the kinds of new technologies that create good jobs and improve life for everyone.
The solution has three main pillars:
Channeled Curiosity: steering researchers’ fundamental inquiries toward real-world problems.
Boundary-Breaking Collaboration: tearing down walls between academic disciplines, and between universities and the private sector to better generate novel, high-impact technologies.
Orchestrated Commercialization: coordinating the various players involved in technology commercialization—including scholars, university administrators, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and corporations—to translate research insights into real-world benefits.
The Organized Innovation framework already has proven effective in closing the innovation gap. It is inspired by our nearly decade-long study of a highly successful but little-known federal initiative, the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Research Centers. These university-based centers require researchers to link basic science to social and market demand, require interdisciplinary and industry-academic collaboration and encourage the creation of proofs-of-concept to demonstrate that a lab-based technology has commercial potential. From 1985 to 2009, about $1 billion in federal funding was invested in the centers. They have returned more than 10 times that amount in a wide variety of technology innovations.
What is your favorite example about new technology generated from the Engineering Research Center program?
Our favorite case is about Mark Humayun and his artificial retina. Humayun is a fascinating individual, and his team developed a device that captures video from a camera embedded in eyeglasses and wirelessly relays digital signals to an implant placed directly on the retina. The artificial retina, called Argus II, is approved for use in the European Union and won US FDA approval in early 2013. Humayun’s device is changing lives — restoring useful vision to people blinded by retinal diseases.
You propose that the US government changes its approach to funding research and development. What is your message to policy makers?
We propose that federal and state funding agencies devote funds to research programs that embody Organized Innovation principles, which may translate into more funding for research with practical significance or innovation outcomes. The key advantages of our model are that we can maximize the public’s return on research and development investments. Both political parties can support this approach; it is fundamentally bipartisan.
Organized Innovation goes against the grain of widespread doubts about the ability of universities, business, and government to work together to solve problems, especially amid growing public deficits. But we’re convinced Americans will have the courage to see the value of such investments in our future.
Steve Currall, Ed Frauenheim, Sara Jansen Perry, and Emily Hunter are the authors of Organized Innovation: A Blueprint for Renewing America’s Prosperity. Steven C. Currall is Dean and Professor of Management in the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Davis. Ed Frauenheim is an author, speaker, and associate editorial director of Workforce magazine, where he writes about the intersection of people management, technology and business strategy. Sara Jansen Perry, Assistant Professor of Management in the College of Business at the University of Houston-Downtown, earned her Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology at the University of Houston. Emily M. Hunter is Assistant Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship in the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University after earning her Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology at the University of Houston.
It is great fun to launch an initiative - the planning, the grant-writing/funding piece, the gathering of material, the publicity, the roll-out and then the public's happy (we hope) reactions. This was definitely the feeling when, three years ago, we debuted our Early Literacy Area - Play Learn Read (PLR).
Careful thought and preparation went into it. Despite that, we immediately began tinkering to make it better, solve problems and navigate unexpected challenges. Things we thought would work, didn't and things we were sure would fail, succeeded. Here's a glimpse into our process of change!
Challenge 1 - Tables We had plenty of small tables in the area. Since this was the first area people saw when they walked into the library, the tables immediately became coat racks (you might glimpse a coat pile on the right of this photo). They also became homework tables - despite their small size. People would put the literacy activity on the floor and spread out their stuff. Solution: we moved all the large tables out and purchased tot-sized tables that let kids sit on the floor. No more coats. Fewer non-tots using the area.
Challenge 2 - Chairs We had a few comfy chairs that began to be heavily used by sleepy men. Again, since this was the first thing people saw when they came into the room, older caregivers sat and snoozed while the children they were with used the rest of the Children's area. It was not an inviting sight and discouraged use. Solution: we kept just one comfy chair and moved it into the corner farthest from the door facing into the PLR area. We added stools for kids and parents to sit on. No more sleepers; fewer non-tot/parent pairs using the area.
Challenge 3 - Magnetism! Planners were delighted by the thought of using baking pans as magnetic boards for children to interact with and to contain the pieces of the story. Sadly, the pans purchased were far from magnetic and so the point of having them was...pointless. Solution: In an "aha" moment, planners finally just purchased a magnetic white board, mounted it on the wall and voila, magnetism for all the story pieces.
Challenge 4 - Many Ages Even though we changed out chairs and tables to preschool-friendly size, we still would get bigger kids taking over the area - and by their presence, discouraging preschool/parent use. Much like in the Teen area that adults would camp-out in (and that we finally designated middle and high school kids only to stop that), we felt it was important to establish a space for the toddlers Solution: For a year or so, until the area became clearly marked in people's minds as a toddler early literacy area, we added a sign that simple said "Parent Tot Spot". It did the trick.
Challenge 5 - Frequency of Activities Changing While we started out with a bang, changing out activities became a real challenge. Some pieces stayed the same for months; some changed out monthly; some were fragile and needed replacing bi-weekly. Solution: We made a commitment to change out activities monthly, varying the weeks. So new puppets went into the puppet theater in week 1; new magnetic board story in week 2; new pillar activity in week 3; new bathroom activity in week 4.
Challenge 5 - Fragility of Material The story pieces - even when done of card stock and laminated - turned out to be too fragile for the use they were getting. The delicate cutting to get the cow's legs cut out was all for nothing when kids bit them off. Solution: We began cutting the shapes with a big circle of white space - without arms, limbs, and slender shapes sticking out the pieces lasted far longer.
Being open to evolving and changing an area or service keeps it responsive to reactions from the public and staff. It's fun to solve those problems! Stay tuned to Part 2 over on Brooke's blog Reading with Red where she tackles more solutions!
How can you resolve to change in 2013? With a community. The Mayo Clinic Scientific Press suite of publications is now available on Oxford Medicine Online, and to highlight some of the great resources, we’ve excerpted Prathibha Varkey, MD, MPH, MHPE’s Mayo Clinic Preventive Medicine and Public Health Board Review below.
Community and population health can be enhanced by recognizing the different levels of influence, namely intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational influences. More recently, attention is being paid to the importance of interpersonal influences through the study of social networks. Smoking cessation rates of individuals increase as more contacts in their social network quit smoking, and individuals gain weight as more contacts in their social network gain weight. Another example of social influence is an after-school program for teenagers that may not change attitudes but may reduce the opportunity to engage in risky behaviors. Organizational support for behavior change can be in the form of higher taxes on tobacco or alcohol, building recreational centers to enhance physical activity, cleaning up the environment (in one study, neighborhood deterioration was a better predictor of sexually transmitted disease than low education attainment), and using or regulating message delivery by the media.
Bringing about change at the population level may follow the principles of diffusion of innovation, as described by Everett Rogers. In this model, the social system comprises five adopter categories: (1) innovators, (2) early adopters, (3) early majority, (4) late majority, and (5) laggards. Innovators are important for change because they get the process started, but they are not very influential because too much uncertainty about the changed behavior still exists when they adopt the change. The early adopters are key to diffusing an innovation; this group tends to include the opinion leaders, and others usually solicit their advice about new innovations. This model of diffusion of innovation predicts whether innovations and change will be successful on a large scale.
How rapidly an innovation will be diffused depends on the characteristics of the innovation, how it is communicated, and the social system. The characteristics of innovation that determine its speed of adoption include its perceived relative advantage over current practice, compatibility with current practices and needs of the adopters, ease of use (simple vs complex), “trialability” (testable on a small scale), and observability (visibility of results).
The principles of this model can be useful for predicting behavior change or diffusion of best practices at the community or population level. For example, screening mammography has been widely adopted by physicians because it is perceived to detect early stage breast cancer, the test is easy for physicians to order, patient compliance is not burdensome, and results are visible in a short time. In contrast, smoking cessation counseling has been slower to diffuse because the results are not as visible (most people will not quit when advised to do so), the intervention is more complex than just ordering a test, and physician practices are not geared toward counseling.
Intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational influences affect community and population health.
Health changes at the population level may propagate in a manner predicted by the principles of diffusion of innovation.
A comprehensive and concise review of relevant preventive medicine and public health topics, the Mayo Clinic Preventive Medicine and Public Health Board Review is an ideal study guide for residents preparing to take the examination of the American Board of Preventive Medicine for the first time, as well as for physicians preparing for recertification. Its emphasis on evidence-based information and recommendations makes Mayo Clinic Preventive Medicine and Public Health Board Review a credible, practical resource that can be used in clinical, public health, and academic settings
The Mayo Clinic Scientific Press suite of publications is now available on Oxford Medicine Online. With full-text titles from Mayo Clinic clinicians and a bank of 3,000 multiple-choice questions, Mayo Clinic Toolkit provides a single location for residents, fellows, and practicing clinicians to undertake the self-testing necessary to prepare for, and pass, the Boards and remain up-to-date. Oxford Medicine Online is an interconnected collection of over 250 online medical resources which cover every stage in a medical career, for medical students and junior doctors, to resources for senior doctors and consultants. Oxford Medicine Online has relaunched with a brand new look and feel and enhanced functionality. Our aim is to ensure that the site continues to deliver the highest quality Oxford content whilst meeting the requirements of the busy student, doctor, or health professional working in a digital world.
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How many times lately have I been tweeting or doing blog posts about some amazing thing I've read from Youth Services bloggers I follow? So much of what I read takes me to places of discovery that I have never been before. And it clearly inspires my blogging and TTFLF's content.
This post is completely happening because I was blown away by Amy Koester's Peer Sourcing post at Show Me Librarian. In the post she acknowledges the power of collaboration and learning from others to build the scaffolding to new programming and thinking paradigms in her work. As I've said before, everything comes from somewhere - whether hatched in our brain or sparked by something we read or hear or collaborate on.
When I started blogging five years ago, there were mostly kidlit blogs - lots of reviews of and thoughts about children and teen books. Only a handful of bloggers shared programs, initiatives and opinions on youth services. And that was what I was really after.
As the years have gone on, more youth people have joined the conversation. From robust posts at ALSC, YALSA, and the Hub to individual bloggers inspired by Flannel Fridays or a desire to share their professional journeys in working with youth, I now have over 100 blogs that I follow. They are ripe with opinions, storytime ideas; teen program mojo; cool initiatives and more. Who knew?
I agree with Amy that we learn from others in a way that informs and improves our work. This is really a shout-out to all the youth services bloggers for putting it out there and sharing. I learn every day and in every way from you all. You all make me a better librarian. And you inform what I write about here.
During one of the recent dust-ups about the worth/importance/immediacy of youth librarian's work vis a vis the larger library world (sorry, but I refuse to link to posts where the troglodyte comments are too depressing to read), one comment in particular rocked my socks off. The writer sniffed that during the time she worked as a youth librarian she had never seen anything done in an innovative way.
Wow. Simply, wow. I am never at a loss in finding youth folks pushing the envelope of innovation. Check out my blog roll on the left for just a small selection of innovators. Colleagues working at small libraries; colleagues working with tots; colleagues working with teens..I mean, really, I see so much innovation, sometimes I think my eyes will bleed, my brain will pop and my heart will bust...all from happiness, of course!
I got thinking about this when Amy over at Show Me Librarian blogged about how she pushed her thinking forward while doing a literacy night. She liked the positives happening with school partnerships but started visioning and problem solving while out at schools. She saw new paths and blocks to build on. It is leading her to innovate and do more effective work that is simply...more...and better...and wow!
That's how innovation happens, in my opinion. You chat, you listen, you read, you reflect and when you are in a situation, you start evolving your thinking and solving problems. R. Davis Lankes recently wrote that being a rock star librarian is getting people to question. I would posit that all innovation grows from questioning. Questioning and thinking and re-thinking and puzzling until a way becomes clear.
In the national youth services community, we are celebrating Library Journal's selection of one of our own - Melissa Depper, she of the marvelous Mel's Desk and a founder of Flannel Friday - as a Mover & Shaker. Her work is consistently innovative as well as foundational. She pushes the envelope and enfolds people though her mentorship and support and sharing with those around her. I am so, so pleased that she is a "sung hero".
Everyday, I watch my co-workers innovate and solve - two share what they know and discover through social media and blogs. Sara over at Bryce Don't Play and Brooke over at Reading with Red explore their paths to discovery. Like Amy; like Mel, they turn a clear eye and an inquiring mind to bringing service to the kids and the community. With their co-workers, I watch them invent, solve, innovate and create. Through this process their ideas - and mine - grow and change and our service evolves and becomes even better.
Innovation isn't technology. Innovation is evolution. Innovation is clearly connectivity.
Youth librarians have been pushing that innovation envelope for so long that "rock star" isn't even in the vocabulary anymore. We are all, at the least, galactic stars!
For me, one of the most challenging aspects of being a manager is working to reach beyond what is in front of us and visioning out towards the future. It is so deuced easy to start slipping into the quicksand of desk work, deadlines, tough patron interactions, cranky colleagues, and the day-to-day grind. As we slip further in, energy is expended in just trying to get through the hour, the day, the week, the month.
Vision? I got no time for that!
Yet, it is this big picture thinking that really informs and advances our services. Staff at all levels at libraries of all sizes that practice big picture thinking and visioning create innovative, reflective, responsive and deep library services.
I have been thinking alot about this over the past month since attending the School Library Journal Think Tank. The speakers, the library leaders I chatted with and worked with that day and the think tank itself were all helping us focus on that larger picture. Inspirational? Oh yes. Transformative? Uh-huh? Usable? Absolutely.
Our keynote speech was by Pan Sandian Smith of Colorado's Anythink Libraries. Her words lit a fire for me. Joanna wrote a blog post at So-Cal Library Connections on the day summarizing speakers and including reports from the Think Tank unconference as well. Other reports came from Amy at Show Me Librarian (here, here and here) and Michelle at Lit Chat for Kids. Those big picture thoughts surrounded us and enlivened us. They gave me more than food for thought. Linda Braun's recent post at YALSA also underscored the importance of thinking big and deep and far beyond the day-to-day and into the future.
All these resources helped me focus and re-commit to the big picture at our library. We have now formed three "mini-teams" in our department. Each two person team focuses on an age group - preschool; school-age; teen/tween. We meet weekly and are discussing all aspects of service to each age group from programs, collections, outreach, reader's advisory, and stealth programs to PR, special initiatives, focus and dreams. We share the notes from the mini-meetings among us and have already begun the delightful work of visioning and big picture thinking. We'll plunge into summer with a much clearer picture of where we want to go and how we might do it.
In fall, we'll bring all the team together off-site for a half-day to reflect, brainstorm and bring these big picture views together and see where we want to go as a department. I am excited to help bring this focus further out.
While I am fond of my nose, it seldom brings me to a larger view of the youth librarianship world. Thank goodness my colleagues help inspire me so that I can help all of us look farther, longer, deeper and fresher!
Today, I’m participating in the blog series, “Show Me the Awesome!” that was started by Kelly, Liz, and Sophie. It's a chance to step up and talk about something special that you've done or want to promote, for instance. For more AWESOME, please check over at their sites for the official link-up. Also, don’t forget the tag #30awesome on Twitter, Tumblr, Vine and/or Instagram if you’re liking what you’re reading and want to talk about it!
One of the things I'm proudest of in my career is my success building partnerships and working with public schools in my communities. I didn't think too much about it until I started to tune into the fact that colleagues seemed to have far fewer happy collaboration stories than I did.
Not only far fewer happy stories but also far more horror stories. Did I just always luck out and get jobs in great communities with uber-responsive schools? Hmmm. I don't think so.
My secret has been confidence, dogged persistence and patience. Each time I move into a community, I make appointments to meet individually with all the principals for a chat. I also meet with school media colleagues. If I have a question about the reading curriculum, I meet with the reading teachers. If I am wondering about a policy or subject being taught with third graders I reach out to those teachers. I drive wherever in the school district I need to go to be there rather than asking the staff to come find me.
What is the subject of most of these meetings? I introduce myself. I ask, "What can I do for you?" and we chat about the library and their dreams, concerns, pressures and how we might work together. I don't bring ideas as much as let my colleagues know I am there to support them and make magic happen when they are ready.
Everybody is my potential partner and colleague - not just LMC colleagues - but everybody.
I work with and will put together or join in meetings with reading coordinators, LMC folks, curriculum folks, principals, grade level teachers to talk about mutual concerns and mull ideas. If I can't get my foot in the door, I enlist my director or a board member with strong school ties to help me open the door.
One director set up a meeting with the principals, curriculum director, LMC folks, superintendent that resulted in decades of positive collaborative work (mutual programs, schools presenting programs at the library, school vans delivering library materials to the schools, shared collections and more). The tenor was so positive that staffers took it for granted that we would be there for them and the partnerships were dynamic - kids won far more than we did in this situation.
I also chat with classroom teachers who come into the public library - listen to what they need and ask for suggestions for what we might do to help them in their work. I make sure that I have at least one school staff advocate for the public library in every school and we build from there. I make sure that I am there for them as much as they are there for me. Ideas have to be created equally and honored equally. Listening and creating together is key.
If the relationship works, I also meet with our school superintendent as a colleague - not as a lesser asking to speak with someone far above me - but as an equal. I make the case for our mutual work in literacy and how the public library is the school's best friend. And on we go from there.
Is it easy? No, it takes time, the ability to listen and understand needs far different than our public library needs. It takes commitment and the ability to keep knocking on doors until the first one opens. Once that starts, more doors open and then more. Partnership ideas sprout up and success builds on success.
Another key ingredient: I don't make demands or work on a proposal before I meet with school folks. First we just chat and look for mutual areas of benefit. From that point we start to explore ideas for action . It's a delicate dance to honor both of our needs and perspectives but once started, it just keeps rolling. I often hear people say "Well, I created this and brought it to the schools, and nobody liked it or wanted it." Creating on your own in a partnership isn't a collaboration- it's looking in the mirror. It may please you, but will it really answer a need that schools have?
When I moved to my present job almost five years ago, I had alot of trepidation. I left a hugely strong collaborative partnership of decades at my last job. There was a little collaboration happening at this new job with the schools. Could I start all over to strengthen the ties and encourage my team? The answer is a resounding yes. First with one principal who opened the door to others. Then with a couple of the LMC people who met and planned with us. Now with classroom teachers. Once more the partnerships and collaboration are growing and strengthening. My team is stepping up and out as partners and developing even stronger ties and initiatives.
I think my mantra on this is from the Galaxy Quest movie: "Never give up; never surrender". It's what has made the collaboration with schools an ever-present awesome in my work. To see more tips, stop by my recent series on real-world, real-life suggestions for collaborative work. It can be done and we all can be awesome at it!
You did it!! You've got it! Lotta hard work in back of you. Lotta hard work ahead. But really, it's all good. You are going to be stepping up and out and showing your stuff. Digging into a job - hopefully sooner rather than later. Digging further into learning and networking. And truly, I hope you'll be showing your stuff to us all.
I'm always inspired by the energy, new passions and thoughtfulness of new librarians. And I want to echo what R. David Lankes wrote to the Syracuse graduates in his recent post: don't wait to break barriers, invent new ways of doing library work good, or pushing the envelope of fantastic. Leap for it, push for it, do it. Do it now.
We sometimes get lost in the minutiae of our masters work and easily believe that we aren't really learning anything..."I could teach myself this!" kind of attitude. You get out, get that first professional job and think, "Whoa, I really didn't learn what I needed to know to face this crazy person or this screaming dad!".
But you did learn exactly what you needed to be successful - research skills, problem solving, the big picture of librarianship and it's history, how to learn more on any subject and skill and a critical eye to determine which way is best to go to make libraries more..better...indispensible. And you did it in that atmosphere of higher learning that surrounded you with mentors, peers and discussions that formed your library worldview.
Now take that knowledge and keep building on it and push ahead and lead now. Don't wait until some old guy like me says, "Well, I think you're ready to be listened to." Go out and grab the brass ring now and shine, shine, shine.
Don't wait for permission - start that blog or tumblr. Leap into Facebook's ALA Think Tank group or Friend Feed's Library Society of the World or Flannel Friday. Start collaborating within Google groups or Twitter. Propose programs. Share thoughts. Pursue big ideas.
Fail. Learn. Try again. Succeed. Fail. Retrack. Tinker. Try again. Succeed. Listen, listen, listen. Learn, learn, learn. And lead and imagine and invent. And then share, share, share.
I am learning so much right now from current MLIS students and shiny new librarians of one, two, three, four and five years experience. After thirty seven years in the biz, you all are rocking my world and keeping me fresh and energized.
So give yourself permission to be that innovator, that mover and shaker and emerging leader. Don't be shy. Step right out, step right up and show your stuff. The library world is waiting for you.And so am I! Image from Pixabay http://pixabay.com/Display CommentsAdd a Comment
Materials ready for one of our small branch libraries
The time is nearly here. The supplies are laid in, the publicity out, the school promo visits just about complete, the database ready, contacts made with groups who come with kids-in-care to get them oriented and staff keen-eyed (or steely-eyed as the case may be). But as prepared as we are, I still like to see what's out there that you all are doing. As I was reading my feeds (here we pause for the image and book that inevitably pops into my head when I think about my RSS feeds), I came across a colleague's description of her summer reading programs. While it was pretty darn nice to see that she had adapted two of the formats we have been using over the years there was a better bonus for me: she shared two other designs for programs (daycares and super readers) that were new to me and that I like quite a bit.
I really appreciate hearing and reading about what other librarians are doing to make summer fun for kids - and staff! Besides reading blog posts, I am lucky enough to travel widely when wearing my hat as an itinerate workshop presenter around my state and region*. And while I share ideas we have tried, I also pick up ideas others have used to make their summer reading or library programs better and more effective.
And how do we get at effectiveness - especially during summer when our days are filled with families, kids, daycares, slp and programs, programs, programs?
I look for posts or listen to people who tell me about how:
a decision has resulted in more participation by the kids
registration has been simplified or tossed out and the result
how prizes have been considered and the results of any change
strategies that have providing staffing relief really worked
value has been added to a program through a simple innovation
You, my friends, are my guides to change and making SLP more fun and less onerous. These 8-12 weeks should not over-run our thoughts, energies, and ability to create powerful children's and teen services magic year-round. When we share our stuff, we make it easier to keep summer in perspective and bring great joy to the process.
Here's hoping you summer is joy-filled, kid-filled and a time to rise above the chaos to see just what good work you are doing for your communities. Now let's dig in!
*In the spirit of May's 30 Days of Awesome posts started by Sophie Brookover, Kelly Jensen and Liz Burns, I share that I present half and full day workshops and presentations for systems and at conferences that include Rethinking Summer Reading; Programming Mojo; The Big Link: Successful School Public Library Partnerships; Stealth Programming; Everyday Advocacy; Creating Amazing Youth Services; Undoing Dewey and anything else that helps me guide participants in the Marge-way of delving deep into why we do what we do and how to do it better.
The concepts of creating school-age programs that take a reasonable amount of preparation time, are engaging and lead to literacy, and allow kids the freedom to explore within the program have been buzzing around in my conversations with colleagues and tweeps over the past few months. We all are exploring how, in a period of tight budgets and staff time, we can make the fun happen without killing ourselves. How can we "unprogram" ourselves - and our programs?
Program preparation for school age programs is important but where is the line drawn when the time spent preparing is two, three, five, or even ten times more than the actual program length itself? Are we, as programmers, leading the charge in the program or empowering the kids in their exploration - are we guides or drill sargeants? Is there a way to organically link the books and materials that surround us every day into the programs and then back again to the collections so that kids understand the fundamental amazingness of the library and its resources?
These questions have led to many conversations and ideas. One of the people I have looked to during this conversation is Amy Koester over at the Show Me Librarian. And now Amy and I would like you to join this conversation at ALA in a few weeks. We will be presenting a 45 minute "Conversation Starter" on Monday July 1 at 1:30 pm at the Mc Cormick Center Rm S102D.
During this time we want to explore with you ideas on making programming more rich while keeping preparation in perspective. We'll also share resources that have helped us free ourselves and keep programming and preparation in perspective in our necks of the woods.
We think it's high time we start talking about this...how about you?
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One of the points I tried to emphasize in my talk about libraries and civic engagement (PDF) at last month’s Allen County Public Library’s Library Camp is that this isn’t a new role for us. The easy, soundbite way to explain this is to note that at the turn of the previous century, one of our major roles was to help immigrants assimilate into American society and learn how to be U.S. citizens. At the turn of the current century, there’s a similar need for us to do the same thing for digital immigrants, in no small part because there really isn’t anyone else to help those folks who are past high school age.
I’ve been gravitating towards this topic lately because I see so much potential, for both libraries and society, and the following idea makes total sense to me.
“David Nordfors, who runs the innovation journalism program at Stanford, stays studens are moving towards a journalisatic method of learning – finding knowledge, assesing it, and then connecting the dots to build a story.”
We’re already well-positioned in our communities to be the conveners for this type of activity, we have a library ecosystem for lifelong learning that includes adults (not just K-12 students), we have supporting resources (not just technology, but context), we teach how to navigate information, and we’re the last, safe, non-commercial space that’s open to anyone without any barriers. In fact, quite a few sections of the 2020 sitescream “libraries” to me, and I encourage you to read through the various sections.
So while I’m intrigued by and fully support the idea of schools encouraging “innovation journalists,” those programs won’t reach their full potential – nor will the students – without libraries to support them. And when those students get out into the real world, libraries can facilitate their non-school efforts. And we can bring them together with the rest of the community to put those new civic literacies into practice for everyone.
And don’t get me started on the participatory divide….
Last week I had the chance to attend meetings of the Hennepin County Library Media Mashup project. Media Mashup is an IMLS funded project that looks at how innovation and change happens in libraries. The way that’s being investigated is through the use of Scratch software with teens in libraries in Hennepin County and around the country. Last week’s meetings were inspiring and I left with several words bouncing around my head:
Innovation – The Media Mashup project is very much focused on how innovation happens in libraries. It’s very clear from the project that there are barriers to innovation in libraries. However, that doesn’t mean innovation can’t happen and that’s demonstrated by the work of librarians around the country working with Scratch in order to help teens learn about technology and gain media and information literacy skills. When put to the challenge, librarians in the project are finding innovative ways to make the technology work – for example buying laptops so that there are computers in the library that can have Scratch on them. Librarians working with teens need to be innovative in order to breakdown barriers to successful service. Innovating may mean speaking up for what teens need. Which can be difficult. But, if it doesn’t happen are teens being well served?
Risk – Librarians serving all different populations often find technology a risky proposition. As a part of the Media Mashup project teen librarians need to take the risk of learning a new software program – Scratch. They then need to take the risk of teaching teens how to use the software. And they need to be willing to teach the software without perhaps knowing everything there is to know about the program. But, taking this risk gives the librarians a great opportunity to mentor and support teens in their own development. A librarian who can take the risk of saying, “I’m not sure how that works but I can help you figure it out” is a librarian that will be successful with teens.
Collaboration – The Media Mashup project centers on a strong collaboration between the Hennepin County Library and the Science Museum of Minnesota. These two agencies have worked together for a few years and it is clear that the relationship works. The Hennepin County Library and the Science Museum of Minnesota each get something out of the relationship. For one thing they get access to the skills and talents of each other. They get the ability to connect with teens in a variety of settings. And, they get the chance to be a part of a larger community. For teen librarians these types of collaborations can be key in guaranteeing success and making sure that teen services are respected both within the library and within the community at large. Sometimes these collaborations can seem like more work than they are worth, but if the time is invested the worth ends up being much more than the work.
Change – Change in libraries is hard and as I listened to the discussions at last week’s Media Mashup sessions, it was clear that some libraries are better at change than others and that some librarians are better at change than others. Listening to the discussions I was reminded of a recent experience I had in my role as YALSA President. As YALSA Pres
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In his recent editorial, The Tel Aviv Cluster, David Brooks of the New York Times cites Start-Up Nation: The Story of the Israel's Economic Miracle when he describes the innovation cluster of technology that has developed in Israel. Having just finished reading Start-Up Nation, I'm not surprised to read about it in the New York Times. Like the other books released by Hatchette Book Group's Twelve, Start-Up Nation stays with you long after closed its covers.
The blurb: Start-Up Nation addresses the trillion-dollar question: How is it that Israel - a country of 7.1 million people, only sixty years old, surrounded by enemies, in a constant state of war since its founding, with no natural resources - produces more start-up companies than large, peaceful, and stable nations like Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada, and the United Kingdom? Drawing on examples from the country's foremost inventors and investors, geopolitical experts Dan Senior and Saul Singer describe how Israel's adversity-driven culture fosters a unique combination of innovative and entrepreneurial intensity.
As the authors argue, Israel is not just a country but a comprehensive state of mind. Whereas Americans emphasize decorum and exhaustive preparation, Israelis put chutzpah first. "When an Israeli entrepreneur has a business idea, he will start it that week," one analyst put it. At the geopolitical level, Senor and Singer dig in deeper to show why Israel's policies on immigration, R&D, and military service have been key factors in teh country's rise - providing insight into why Israel has more companies on the NASDAQ than those from all of Europe, Korea, Singapore, China, and India combined.
So much has been written about the Middle East, but surprisingly little is understood about the story and strategy behind Israel's economic growth. As Start-Up Nation shows, there are lessons in Israel's example that apply not only to other nations, but also to individuals seeking to build a thriving organization. As the U.S. economy seeks to reboot its can-do spirit, there's never been a better time to look at this remarkable and resilient nation for some impressing, surprising clues.
Review: Dan Senor and Saul Singer's Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle is well researched and a fascinating read. The book is divided into four main parts:
The Little Nation That Could
Seeding a Culture of Innovation
Country with a Motive
In The Little Nation That Could Senor we read PayPal's Scott Thompson's first impressions of a young Shvat Shaked, whose young company. Fraud Sciences, developed the most up-to-date solution to the problem of online payment scams, credit card fraud, and electronic identity theft. As we read about Fraud Sciences, its founders Shvat Shaked and Saar Wilf, their approach to problem solving and the impressions of the top executives of PayPal, Ebay and Benchmark Capital, it becomes clear that the story of technological innovations and start-up ventures in Israel is deep and unique.
I was struck by story after story that traced technological and scientific innovations to Israeli dedication, chutzpah, a culture of debate/argument a
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Congratulations to all the 2010 Library Journal Movers and Shakers. Being just back from a quick-but-much-needed long weekend vacation, I had forgotten that March 15 was already hereand the announcement went out today.
So hooray for innovation and librarians who are making things happen in their respective communities. And full disclosure: yes, OCLC is sponsoring the microsite, which of course is why I suddenly remembered the timing.
Since my last year has been filled with intense reading, analyzing and writing, I have wondered what, if any, the effects have been on my world outside of writing. As always, the side effects appear least where I expect them.
My husband and I decided to catch up on actual movie-going since the kids are in Germany this month. When we were young and poor graduate students and living in Germany ourselves, every Wednesday night was movie night because the theaters had half-price tickets. There was hardly ever a lack of things to see. Sure, there were lulls, but for the most part, Wednesday night was a night away from reality in someone else's enchanting story.
This last week has not been as enchanting. We went to see Killers with Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutscher, Sex and the City 2, and Letters to Juliet. You can guess who was picking the movies. But even if my husband had had more of a say, the only one we'd have added to the mix is Iron Man 2. Without having seen the last one, still, of the other three, the only one that held my attention was Letters to Juliet. I knew Sex and the City 2 would be a walk down memory lane, but I was actually checking my watch during the movie! Me. A diehard Sex and the City fan. During Killers, I checked my watch, too. I have never checked my watch in a movie. What is wrong with me? Have I studied plot so much that now I cannot get lost even a little bit in a mediocre film?
I think maybe.
The upside is that I've seen Letters to Juliet twice, and would see it a third time. The writing is smart, the acting good, the storyline plausible, with good A and B arc-ing stories. But why is there only one such movie out there at the height of summer? Granted, I'm waiting for the kids to come back before I go see Karate Kid, but that's got to be good. The original was already super and the new actors should spice up the latest version. I do not think there will be any watch checking.
However, if there is any truth to the adage that there are no new stories, only new ways of telling them, then I am worried about the movies. Of the movies listed above, only 2 are originals. Of those, I only got caught up in one. I know the movie industry is suffering, but there is good writing out there. Remakes are fun, but the real rush (and dollars) comes from fresh, innovative, exciting writing combined with sharp acting.
Now if I can just apply what I've learned to my own writing!
Can we finally put the argument to rest? E-readers are not killing reading, nor are they killing books. As research shows, people who own e-readers not only read more than people who don’t, but they read both e-books and print books. Not to mention, there are plenty of populations, from prison inmates to seniors, who will need print books for a long time coming. Neither one is going away.
That’s not to say that they’re the same, though. Far from it. In my experience, e-readers attract different types of readers than print books, and they’re also engaging more people who were previously non-readers. Anybody who thinks that’s not great, well… There are also scads of e-reading apps available for phones, tablets, and computers, so e-content is available to more than just people with Nooks and Kindles. People use e-readers for a variety of reasons, from pleasure reading to research, so it’s good to consider how many bases you can cover. The Pew Research Center released a report on reading, readers, and e-readers recently, and ALA of course responded. While Pew’s data is encouraging (among other statistics released, the study found that people who use e-readers read more books per year than people who only read in print), ALA pointed out that the stats of who reads at all, and who reads in what format, are also related to education and income level. So what can you do about it?
First, take a look at your e-book collection and see what types of materials are most widely represented. In my anecdotal experience, I’ve found that bestselling memoirs and adult fiction are easy to find in e-book format, as well as genre fiction like westerns and romance. Pew’s study also indicated that people are drawn to print and e-books for different reasons, based on the types of materials they can find. This is your chance to offer innovative e-materials, as well as to fill some gaps that your print collection just can’t do. If your library offers Kindles or other devices for checkout, and not just the e-materials, see if you can designate one of them as the YA e-reader, and fill it up with some teen-friendly stuff that will attract readers and non-readers alike. If you don’t have library-owned devices, you can always offer these suggestions on a flyer for your patrons who own personal devices.
Download literary and other magazines that are published for online audiences, in PDF format. For me, this is why I bought my Kindle in the first place–my grad school reading heavily leans toward the downloaded journal articles, and I didn’t want to clutter my hard drive or break my eyeballs reading it all on my computer. You might try things like Sucker Literary Magazine, a new magazine of YA fiction available on PDF and Kindle form, the Fairy Tale Review, which publishes fiction and poetry based on or inspired by fairy tales (their first issue is free and in PDF form, and the rest can be bought on an issue-by-issue basis), or Anthology, a collection of writing from a longstanding literary magazine by and for teens, Cicada
Load your e-reader with some free or inexpensive word and logic games. Both Nook and Kindle have a variety available. For a cost, both major retailers, as well as educational software companies, offer specialized dictionaries and other apps for academic subjects, too.
Have a strong immigrant, refugee, or bilingual population in your library? E-readers offer you the chance to bulk up your collection in other languages for a lower price than many print books. Amazon’s Kindle store has a huge selection of Spanish-language e-books (though it will transfer you to its Spanish version of the website, so make sure you can read it
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When this month’s theme was announced I got to thinking of some of the innovations that have entered into my world since I was a child. I should state here that I am defining innovation according to its “invention” and “evolution” roots. I wanted to think about what new systems/ideas/products have been brought into librarianship that have made me wonder how we could have ever done without.
Like poor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, what have I grown accustomed to? So, I’ve been thinking about this for a while and here are a few of my favorite innovations without which I am sure my job and my life would be far more challenging and far less enjoyable.
(Mind you, this is in no particular order.)
1. Wireless printing: I am writing this post from the comfort of my living room sofa. If I want to proofread a hard copy of this, I am able to tell my computer to print and the document will print out in my office. Even better, my printer can be anywhere in my office and is not tethered to wires around my computer. It’s rather freeing really. Somehow the whole concept of this wireless freedom, which has shown itself in many office environs thanks to networking, did not become fully real to me until I was untethered both at work and home.
2. Online card catalogs: Sometimes I think I am a closet catalouger. I can often get sidetracked by a small catalouging project by the discovery that certain subject headings are inconsistent. At a time when many of us are shifting the way we view our shelving, we have to give some credit to the flexibility online cataloguing provides. It is now VERY easy to make global systematic changes to records. Granted, I’ve rarely found a catalog that was really end-user friendly (and some are disastrous on several fronts), so there’s still much innovating to be done in this arena, we cannot take for granted the benefit these systems have given us, especially in terms of personalizing our library collections.
3. Stylus pens: Yes, I know to grow accustomed to the stylus, I must also grow used to the device, but for me, the iPad tripled in usability once I could use my own handwriting and hand-drawing on the device. The stylus allowed me to do just that, and also gave my forefinger a much wanted break. I have a favorite stylus, but will take other stand bys in a pinch. With the stylus, I am now able to take notes on a favorite note-taking app during a meeting and then send these notes back to myself (and others) via email, Evernote, iCloud or what have you.
4. Google docs: Since my graduate school days, I’ve been using Google docs, but it wasn’t until this year that I learned to love it. When collaborating with others who are not in the same place as you, Google docs can really save the day. And save time. And save us all from confusing moments of misinformation. Perhaps I give Google docs too much credit, but any tool that allows users to contribute in real time and maintains records of changes…that seems like a good thing. I imagine other programs have similar sharing capabilities, but currently Google docs is the one for me.
I've been thinking lately about what I consider the differences between great co-workers and colleagues and ones not so much. It doesn't always boil down to who is the hardest worker, or the most astute or the most verbal.
For me, it is often the person who is inquisitive enough to look for the unseen, to explore in the seldom looked-in nooks and crannies and the ones who look beyond their job description to discover all they can about the work (whether job or committee work) and the place they work in. Their job description - whether at the library or working on committees or in an association - is really only an outline that frames the larger discovery and work they are involved in. And they are willing to stand aside from expected outcomes and behavior to discover and participate in helping service and issues evolve to a better place. These people become indispensable to the organization.
What the deuce am I talking about? Here are a few entirely pedestrian examples to illustrate that "indispensability" difference:
Many years ago, a woman in a wheelchair came to the check-out area of the very small library I worked at. Our bathrooms on the main floor were not accessible at that time. The desk staffer who had worked at the library for many years suggested she use the restroom at the nearby fast food restaurant. What was confounding and amazing to me was that we had accessible restrooms in the lower level near the public meeting rooms and staff lounge. But she had never been in them and so didn't direct our patron there. Certainly a lack of training was in play but I would also suggest a lack of curiosity and taking responsibility for one's own knowledge of the building played another huge part in this ickily memorable incident.
I have also worked with someone who began her career at the library almost a quarter century ago in basically a clerk's position. Her natural curiosity led her to learn her job duties and then continue to look for other learning opportunities within the department and library. SHe always said yes when asked to take on a new duty. As she added to her expertise over the year's and added job duties, she became the go-to person for any number of staffers. She now heads the department she started in and supervises her former manager. She is someone who looks to solve problems and say yes when people come to her and she still keeps learning. I call that indispensable.
Whether it's being willing to look for ways to collaborate to solve a problem; having the moxie to learn what's tucked away in storage that can be used; happy to share thoughts and plans instead of keeping them close to the chest; willing to go the extra mile ("No problem, we can try that"); ready to raise a hand rather than duck their head when work needs doing - these are the people I like to have working alongside me in any situation. They are "there" for me and ultimately there for the public or the membership.
It's something I aspire to in return. I think it would be good to be indispensable!
The next big thing in innovation lies in the ways we innovate using technology. We’re used to thinking about innovations that are technologies — the computer, the Internet, the laser, and so on. But technology is now being used to produce better innovations than ever before. By better, we mean innovations that meet our personal, organizational, and social requirements in new and improved ways, and aren’t just reliant on the technical skills and imagination of corporate engineers and marketers.
Here’s some examples of what we mean. If you have ever been lucky enough to design and build a home, you would have been confronted by technical drawings that are incomprehensible to anyone but trained architects. Nowadays you can have a computerised model of your house that lets you move around it in virtual reality so that you get a high fidelity sense of the layout and feel of rooms. You get to know what it really will look like, and make changes to it, before a brick is laid.
Move up a level and consider the challenges confronting the redesign of Cannon Street station in London. This project involved not only redesigning the station, but also building an office block above it, whilst maintaining access to the fully operational Underground station beneath it. The project used augmented reality technology to assist the design and planning process. Using a smartphone or tablet, augmented reality overlays a digital model on the surrounding real world, so you can see hidden infrastructure such as optical fibers, sewers, and gas lines — and get a sense of what things will look like before work begins. This is especially valuable for dealing with various vintages of infrastructure in busy city environments and when there are concerns about maintaining the integrity of listed buildings.
The key principle in these examples is that non-specialists can become involved in decisions that were previously only made by experts.
Other technologies that encourage this ‘democratization’ of innovation include rapid prototyping. This technology changes the economics of manufacturing, so it becomes feasible to make bespoke, individualized products cheaply. If you design something yourself, you don’t need expensive molds, dies, and machine tools to make it. We are quickly developing technologies that can produce your designs on the spot on your desk.
The Internet underlies much of the advance in the ways we innovate. It allows us to collect information from a massively increased population of designers, producers and users of innovation. It connects ideas, people and organizations. Also important is the ‘Internet of things’ that is the vast number of mobile devices and sensors that are connected together and produce data that can be valuably used to make better decisions. Drivers’ mobile phones, for example, can locate cars and traffic jams and allow better planning of transport flows. We have it from a reputable source that more transistors — the building blocks of sensors and mobile devices — were produced last year than grains of rice were grown. And they were produced at lower unit cost.
We’re all much better attuned at processing images rather than text and data. Half our cerebral cortex is devoted to visualization. Technologies developed in the computer games and film industries — think Toy Story and World of Warcraft — are being used to help innovators in areas ranging from pharmaceuticals to emergency response units in cities. The capacity, which these new technologies bring to produce dynamic images of what was previously opaque technical information, underlies the greater engagement in innovation by a wider range of people.
The technology that seems likely to have the greatest impact globally on innovation is the smartphone. Just think how short a period of time we’ve been using them and yet how much we use them for. Quite apart from putting us in direct contact with the majority in the world’s population, we use them to shop, bank, pay bills, and map our way. We use a myriad of apps for all sorts of productive and entertaining purposes. Nearly 6 million of the world’s 7 million people have mobile phones and in many developing countries there are more mobiles than people.
These devices provide opportunities for innovation amongst billions of people that have previously been excluded from the global economy for lack of information and money. Smartphones provide everyone with access to all the staggering amount of information available on the web. They can also allow access to finance, especially small amounts of money. Less than 2 million people in the world have bank accounts and banking on smartphones allows billions of previously disenfranchised people to borrow, trade, and be reimbursed for their ideas and initiative. In this way, technology makes innovation more inclusive and less the privilege of corporations with research and development departments. We look forward to a massive wave of exciting new and unimaginable ideas from all sorts of people from everywhere around the world.
Sara, over at her blog Bryce Don't Play, had another thoughtful post the other day in which she explored how she creates and how she solves problems the way she does. In her typical matter-of-fact way, she describes her reality and how that has led to an adaptability and level of experimentation that directly influences her creativity. Best money quote: "everything is possible if its definition is malleable."
Over a long career working with people at libraries, in associations, at workshops and on committees, I've met a boatload of creative - and un-creative - people. What is that ineffable thing that helps creators, create; innovators, innovate or librarians, succeed? I've been a manager for all but a year and a half at the beginning of my career so I've had plenty of time to chew on this particular nut. Although I sure don't have all the answers, here are a couple of thoughts.
There are some people who are innately pretty darn creative. Whether it's how their brain is wired or just a fascination with problem solving or tinkering, they are playing and adapting consistently. Collaboration and partnering seems to play a big part in their creativity.
There are also people who, while feeling less naturally creative, try and fail and try again until they find the right combination; they seem to find the path to creativity through learning/observing/applying how it all fits together. One of the things that happens as people tap into their creativity is they learn to take one and one and make something much greater than two. I think the degree of problem solving that happens is because these people are thinking, "I can". These two kinds of people are the ones we go, "Wow, I like that thing/program/service you thought up. I want to try that too!"
There are also people that, for whatever reason, think more in terms of "I can't" or if they are foot-draggers or pretty negative are more in the "I won't" category. Trying anything is a big step and one failure or idea that doesn't pan out stops them dead. These are often the people who say, "We tried that before..." or "We've always done it this way..." or "See, I tried it and it was a miserable failure." These seem to be people (as I commented in Sara's post) who want lanes and doorways; paths and clues. When something happens that gets them out of the lane or off the path, they try their hardest to get back in or on. It feels safer there - but not very creative.
Sometimes when people hatch an idea and hit a wall, they just back up and hit it repeatedly - "Well", they say, "I can't go forward" or "You stop me from going forward." or "There is no forward. In any case, guess I'll stop". I think creative people and problem solvers keep tapping along the wall until they find a door or window or weak point in that wall to break through. They just keep trying until the right combination happens. It's not their first thought or attempt but maybe their second or fifth or tenth and they hit the right combination. It might be a few minutes, a few weeks or longer but that "Well maybe" keeps driving on the problem solving.
It's being open to creative solutions and collaborating along the way to achieve them that makes a difference. It's getting out of the box; into the weeds and off into the forest to explore the possibilities that leads to that experimentation. And that pursuit of possibilities; that willingness to collaborate and being open to change leads inevitably to a more creative approach.
Cen Campbell has a guest post up at ALSC blog that encourages youth librarians in particular to get out of the echo chamber and really interact with and respond to their community. I love her seven steps that are a literal kick in the butt to engage and be engaged.
We all need reminders to get out of the lanes we're in and think beyond what we've always done. It's challenging; it's hard but it's worth it. What are you going to do this year to shake up your routine and really learn, build and serve your community? Image: 'Grace and poise?' http://www.flickr.com/photos/92814092@N00/477256270 Found on flickrcc.netAdd a Comment