Since I’ve previously written about David Kelley of IDEO, I suppose it’s only fair that I dedicate a post to his brother and fellow IDEO legend Tom Kelley. But whereas I shared David Kelley’s insights into how design thinking is changing the way business operates, it’s one of Tom Kelley’s ideas about innovation that I want to promote in this post. Kelley was recently interviewed at IdeaConnection, and I recommend you give the entire interview a good reading. But Kelley’s mention of “trigger points” captured my attention, and got me thinking about how this ideas can apply to our libraries.
The idea behind the trigger point is pretty simple. According to Kelley it is:
the one or two essential elements in a product that are important to your customers. Sometimes you gain a competitive edge by fixing a problem or designing a great customer experience around those trigger points. If you make everything about your product or service continuously better and add more features, you may end up with a product or service that customers can’t afford and don’t understand.
So the trigger point is the one thing, or maybe two things, that really makes the difference for the potential library users – or as Kelley puts it – the offering that gets the person past whatever threshold was keeping them from using the service. What might that threshold be for the typical library, and how do we make this trigger point easier to navigate or how might we build a better experience around it?
It might not be the same for each library. In my own library a trigger point would be the web site and the access it provides to electronic resources. Our 2009 LibQual survey results clearly indicated that for our faculty and students it is highly important to easily find and connect to those resources. If we can do only one thing to create a better experience and loyal customer it would mean a better web site that allows for easier navigation and location of resources. On the other hand, it only tells us what it is important to the user, not the obvious solution. It may be that the solution isn’t a better website in terms of finding and connecting to e-resources. The solution may be creating simpler and more convenient paths to the e-resources from wherever the end user is most likely to begin their navigation path. So we also need to do a better job of learning and understanding how our users want to find and connect to the e-resources they need. It may be we need to better integrate the paths to the e-resources into course management systems or social networks.
And although some might suggest the library building itself is no longer that important, we are learning that our faculty and graduate students currently avoid our building because it is an unpleasant experience for them. They find the undergraduates too noisy. They want dedicated study and research space that better serves their needs and the way they work. For these community members the building and its available study space is clearly another trigger point. We need to create improvements that will get the faculty and graduate students past the threshold that presently serves as a barrier to their coming to and using the library facility.
Thinking more about library trigger points strikes me as one good way to begin a process of understanding the library experience beyond just fixing a series of things that are broken. Yes, it is important to fix what is broken, but no combination of small fixes is likely to tackle the challenge of identifying the one or two trigger points and developing appropriate solutions that will turn a non-user into a library user.
You often find writers using a quote to start off a book chapter or an article. Most times those quotes are like background noise. It’s there but you don’t notice it. But every now and then it grabs your attention. That’s what got me to take a look at this UXmatters article titled “a practical guide to capturing creativity“. It began with a good quote from Linus Pauling that I’d never come across before: The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas. Make sense. Librarians are creative folks. I don’t doubt we all have many ideas. The problem is capturing them and then developing the one that has the most potential.
The main problem, according to author Jonathan Follett, is that creative ideas jump into our minds when we are least ready to capture them. He writes:
When the creative moment strikes, we need to be ready for it with ways to save, preserve, and ultimately use our invaluable ideas, notes, and sketches, so they can contribute to the success of great digital products. Such ideas don’t always come to us in the office environment. I find, generally, that there are far too many distractions in my own studio. In our over-stimulated modern world, with thousands of messages competing for our attention and bandwidth, it’s no wonder creative professionals require time away from their desks and computers to generate new ideas.
The often cited example is the shower idea. There is a well recognized phenomenon that people tend to get ideas or creative bursts of genius in the shower. Why is that? No one knows for sure but one suggestion is that the brain needs to be free of the constant ongoing details that flood each moment. But when the mind is unchained from all those details it can pull together the many disparate puzzle pieces that go into a creative idea. The shower seems to be a particularly good place for that to happen. Follett’s focus is on how you go about capturing the idea when it comes, as it so often will disappear if allowed to drift off. You know how it works. You say to yourself “that’s a great idea and I’ll make a note of it after breakfast”. Then after breakfast you are asking yourself what that idea was you had in the shower. Don’t let it happen to you.
So what do you do? You’ll find some good ideas in this article. Follett’s advice is to keep it simple. He emphasizes the use of easily carried notebooks for jotting down ideas. He has a preference for the Moleskine notebook. I carry a Daytimer and keep it stocked with plenty of notepaper at all times. Even though I carry a smartphone I just find it easier to jot down ideas on paper with pencil – and it’s easier to sketch an idea, another reason Follett likes notebooks. What about the shower? Follett shares information about a notebook and pen designed for writing in the wettest conditions. Try using your smartphone in the shower.
Follett doesn’t ignore higher tech methods for capturing ideas. Voice recorders are an obvious device for this task. I’ve experimented a bit with the voice recorder on my smartphone. It works well enough. The problem is that I forget to use it, and there are times when I wouldn’t want to – such as when I get an idea on the commuter train. You could acquire a specialized voice recorder if that’s your preference. He even mentions using Google Voice to record ideas from a cell phone. Why not just leave a message with your idea on your work voicemail? The advantage of Google Voice is that it transcribes the message so you have a written version, but Follett found that it didn’t always work that well. Still, you may want to experiment with Voice. And if voicemail isn’t high-tech enough for you, consider using a hand held video camera to record yourself describing your creative ideas.
Are librarians creative professionals? It’s certainly not a characteristic associated with the traditional stereotype. How much creativity does shushing people and stamping book cards require? But we know that librarians are indeed a creative bunch. Need examples? Consider the spring 2008 issue of Urban Library Journal that profiled creative librarians and their creative library projects and approaches to service. Capturing one’s creative ideas is a good start, and a good way to make sure that we all have lots of ideas on hand. After all, that does seem like the best way to discover that one really good idea that could make a difference.
Here at DBL we make a regular effort to bring books or videos of value to your attention. Most of us are not likely to enter a graduate program on user experience or design, so our best mechanism for becoming more learned about UX and design thinking is to read more books, articles or watch video presentations about these topics. If it can be hard for you to get started on a book, then a book club may be just the thing you need.
I had no idea there was such a thing as a UX book club, and it turns out that these clubs are sprouting up all across the country. I found one in Philadelphia in minutes. I first learned about UX book clubs in a post at Boxes and Arrows. Following the author’s advice I went to the home page of the UX Book Club. There I learned more about the UX Book Club concept, and that there are UX Book Clubs all over the world – including my own city.
So I followed the instructions and found my way to the Facebook Group for my local chapter of the book club. The group has over 60 members. It appears I just missed a recent meeting at which the book Sketching User Experiences by Bill Buxton was discussed. We have this book at my library and I’ve looked it over previously, but it could have been interesting to discussed it with others. I don’t know if I’ll have the opportunity to read the next book the group selects – or attend their meetings – but I think there will still be value in being part of the UX Book Club. Take a look to see if there is a UX Book Club in your city.