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Designing Better Libraries by steven j bell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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.


Comment from Jill Stover
Posted: April 19, 2007 at 8:03 pm

It’s worth noting that this “Ways to Grow” approach appears to be derived from the Ansoff product/market matrix, which has been used for some time by the business community. I’ve discussed it as it relates to library outreach, here:

Pingback from Designing Better Libraries » The Risky Business Of Design
Posted: May 16, 2007 at 12:48 pm

[…] Jill Stover: It’s worth noting that this “Ways to Grow” approach appears to be derived from the Ansoff product/market… […]

Comment from Ryan
Posted: May 20, 2007 at 4:30 pm

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.

Pingback from Designing Better Libraries » Put The Focus On Design Rather Than Innovation
Posted: July 19, 2007 at 2:33 am

[…] A recent ALA program featured a debate on innovation, and sought to answer the question “Are librarians and libraries innovative?” That’s certainly an interesting question, but I would pose that it’s the wrong question to be asking. We could argue whether librarians achieve sufficient levels of creating or adopting new technologies in an effort to develop new services or reach new end users of library services (I’m thinking more deliberately about how I use the word “patron” these days). We might further explore the rates of technology diffusion to better quantify the time it takes new technologies to achieve implementation in library settings. A past post of ours pointed to an article that suggested there are multiple levels and forms of innovation, such as incremental, evolutionary and revolutionary innovation. Examples of libraries demonstrating all three forms of innovation are available. […]

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