Innovation And Getting To Where You Want To Go

I just wrote something about innovation over at ACRLog, and my basic point in that post is that there is a lot of talk about innovation in libraries (and as someone pointed out job ads always ask for “innovation” as a candidate quality), but that we might not always know what true innovation is or how to think about innovation as a way to achieve organizational outcomes. To gain better insight into this I recommend an article titled “Innovation, Growth, and Getting to Where You Want to Go” that appeared in Design Management Review. The article is authored by two employees of the IDEO design organization.

They suggest the main reason we should try to innovate is “to deliver experiences that make life better for people”. That sound like something we can get behind here at DBL. But while making life better is an admirable goal, the way we operationalize it is through a combination of new offerings and new users. If we can get new people to use the library by offering new services and products, we will grow as an organization and that will signify innovative change.

The authors also identify three types of innovation outcomes. Incremental innovation reaches existing users with existing offerings. Evolutionary innovation either provides new offerings to existing users or provides existing offerings to new users. Revolutionary innovation provides new users with new offerings. In libraries we are good at incremental innovation, occasionally achieve evolutionary innovation, and rarely achieve revolutionary innovation.

“Ways to Grow” is a method the authors recommend for identifying innovation goals. Where I think it will help me is by recognizing (revolutionary) innovation as a new product or service that reaches someone new. As I wrote in the post at ACRLog, something new is not necessarily something innovative. However you wish to define innovation and whatever serves as innovation in our libraries, the effort put into it should provide a clear understanding of how it will help the library grow – and deliver an experience that makes life better for people.

Author: StevenB

Steven Bell is currently Associate University Librarian for Research and Instructional Services at Temple University, and was previously Director of the Library at Philadelphia University. Steven is the author of two regular columns published by Library Journal, From the Bell Tower and Leading From the Library. With John Shank he is co-founder of the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community. Bell and Shank are also authors of the book Academic Librarianship by Design. Bell's latest book is Crucible Moments: Inspiring Library Leadership. More information is found at his website.

4 thoughts on “Innovation And Getting To Where You Want To Go”

  1. Hi Jill,
    That comparison is very good and quite useful. The distinctions of “people” or “users” instead of “markets” and “offerings” instead of “products” are very important and inspirational for us. A market, the way one might think about it, might not exist yet for a new offering – a market would have to organize around it. I hope that it is a bit more freeing and generative frame of reference. When I think product and market it takes me to an existing, understood , and more incremental place (which can be quite powerful and valuable!).
    As a sidenote, Geoff Moore uses the Ansoff product/market matrix diagram in “Dealing with Darwin” as well. Check out that comparison if you have some time.

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