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Teach Your Library New Tricks: Encouraging Innovation in Established Organizations. British Columbia Library Association April 17, 2008. Kathryn J. Deiss ACRL Content Strategist AGENDA. Opening and introductions Innovation and established organizations

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Teach Your Library New Tricks:Encouraging Innovation in Established Organizations

British Columbia Library AssociationApril 17, 2008

Kathryn J. DeissACRL Content



  • Opening and introductions
  • Innovation and established organizations
  • Practice with three tools
  • Planning an innovation incubator

Let’s play a game!

  • Go out into the hotel/conference area
  • Choose three objects
  • Bring them back here
  • You have 5 minutes!

Reverse Scavenger Hunt

Using the objects you picked up create the objects/representations below

A three-dimensional model of love

An example of a reference question

Something that would make travel easier


“Different is not always better but better is always different.”Rick LuceEmory University


“Innovation is the embodiment, combination, and/or synthesis of knowledge in novel, relevant, valued new products, processes, or services.”Dorothy Leonard and Walter Swap


Innovations are those things that change the way we can do what we want to do

  • Innovation is disruptive
  • Innovation is both revolutionary and evolutionary
  • Society decides what is innovative

Directional vs intersectional innovation

  • Directional innovation combines ideas within a field
  • Intersectional innovation combines ideas at the intersections of different fields resulting in an increased level of possibilities

Source: Johanssen, Frans. The Medici Effect


“The intersection of fields, cultures, and disciplines generates combinations of different ideas, yes; but it also generates a massive number of these combinations. People at the intersection, then, can pursue more ideas in search of the right ones.”

Frans Johanssen


Barriers to innovation

  • Organizational age
  • Individual & group skills lacking
  • Desire for perfection
  • Risk aversion
  • Natural tensions & dichotomies

Innovation and org. age

  • Mature organization
    • proven track record
    • established resources
    • less likely to take risks
    • less flexible
    • reliance on and replication of past successful practices
    • improvisation more difficult
  • Young organization
    • sparse track record
    • volatile resources
    • more likely to risk
    • more flexible
    • no past to replicate
    • natural improvisation

Skills related to innovation

  • Right brain thinking
  • Play and non-verbal skills
  • Idea generating skills and tools
  • Group facilitation skills
  • Observation and analytical skills
  • Ability to question
  • Prototyping

Desire for perfection

  • Drive for premature closure and completeness
  • No feedback loops
  • Limited learning process

Risk aversion

  • Innovation is both revolutionary & evolutionary
  • The disruption effect
  • Mixed messages
  • Anxiety
  • Predictive inclinations


  • Disturbance
  • Unknown consequences & patterns
  • Play
  • Practice
  • Risk
  • Stability
  • Standards
  • Expertise
  • Performance
  • Certainty

Political implications

Cornelis Drebbel and £20,000 (1624)

  • Societal readiness
  • Patterns of behavior
  • Political climate
  • Building the message

What are the political implications of some innovations your library has tried or wishes to try?

  • Who needs to buy-in?

How to get started

  • Identifying question/opportunity
  • Voluminous idea generation
  • Creative thinking tools
  • Tolerance for failure and time lags or jumps
  • Escape “the end of..” syndrome; embrace “the beginning of..” way of thinking

Three creative problem-solving and innnovating techniques:

Creative Insights sessions

Excursion technique

Prototyping (discussion)


Brainstorming rules!and it has rules!

  • Rapid idea generation
  • No VOJ!
  • Go for quantity not quality
  • The wilder the better
  • Build on ideas of others

Creative Insights session

  • Problem question (how to…?)
  • Brainstorming round 1
  • Problem restatement
  • Brainstorming round 2
  • Choosing best idea

Step one

  • Write a problem statement in the form of a question (someone should be client/owner)
  • Select someone to facilitate the brainstorming
  • If desired select separate person to record
  • You have 7 minutes

Steps two and three

  • Look at original problem statement and restate it in different words
  • Brainstorm on new statement (you have 7 minutes)

Step four

  • Step back in amazement at the ideas you have come up with!
  • Choose the best possible idea - which idea will have most impact?

Excursion techniques

Look at the photographs that follow

  • When you look at the photograph and think about your problem statement or issue what comes to mind?
  • How is the photograph like your problem?

“Free societies enable the future by limiting the past.”Lawrence Lessig(OCON July 24, 2002 “Free Culture”)



  • Observation of people & situations
  • Trials and tests
  • Three dimensional aspect
  • Inventive
  • Feedback loops

“Quick prototyping is about acting before you have got the answers…

Good prototypes don’t just communicate, they persuade.”Tom Kelley, IDEO


What’s in a name? the GGNRA’s transformation by prototype

Design by Michael Schwab


Johnnie Lee Chung: a case of unintended consequences

Think of something in your library that could benefit from a new prototype name or image

As a group share projects and do a quick idea sort on one of these situations


Innovation Incubators

Photo by Loensis


Innovation incubators

  • Places - physical & virtual
  • Skills - play, ideating, prototyping
  • Practices - processes and tools
  • Technologies - emerging tools for delivering and testing services

Planning an Innovation Incubator

Use the planning handout to think through setting up an innovation incubator - let your imagination play!

Discuss your planning thoughts with two other people in the room


“The most successful people are those who are willing to give up their most successful strategies….”Richard Foster


Thank you!

Keep in touch!