Internet Librarian 2008, post two = Innovation

Helene Blowers Preaches It

Originally uploaded by lib_rachel

Here’s Helene Blowers, who’s much more dynamic in person than my photography might indicate, speaking on “Innovation – From Best Practices to Fresh Practices.” If you have a chance to see Helene speak anywhere, do so. If not, or to whet your appetite, here are some highlights:

What is innovation? Basically, innovation = DOING NEW THINGS. Innovation involves taking a fresh set of ingredients, then coming back to your workplace and doing something with it.

This in itself seems easy, but getting someone within your organization to allow you to do it, may not be so easy. If you’re a manager, changing your behavior to allow people to do new things may not be so easy either.

innovation isn’t about best practice, it’s about fresh practice. It’s not about duplicating others’ success, but about looking at that success and seeing how it fits in your own organization with your own twist.

Seth Godin says that nothing is original, we’re all working with same set of elements and pieces. It’s the combination that creates remarkable. Innovation is about being remarkable, not about changing the world.

Books on innovation, see Godin, Peters, have to do with how to change an organization’s culture to allow it to happen. Seeds of innovation — creativity, strategy, implementation, profitability.

Creativity = ideas

Regarding ideas, focus on quantity, not quality. This is hard because we are a profession that focuses on quality. Don’t worry about ideas being crazy, start thinking about how many can put out, not how good they are. Become a collector of ideas. Get outside your comfort zone; you can’t generate ideas from routine. Bounce your thoughts around; don’t just record, share, and the best ideas are those that gain momentum. When you bounce ideas around you can see the ones that are sticky — they bounce back to you.


Being a strategist = being a change agent.

1) Make it believable. MVV — Mission, Vision, and Values — admins love that stuff, because that’s what they do. TIE YOUR IDEA to MVV, communicate it that way. Not “it’s just cool, our customers will like it.”
2) Create alliances. If you’re going to be a change agent you can’t work in a silo, you need to make connections now. Being a change agent is about making really good relationships. Bounce ideas off those people, get them involved with your ideas.
3) Don’t ask for permission, ask for support. Permission = I have a great idea, I want to give it to you and have someone else do it. Support = I have a great idea and am going to put my own energy and resources and passion behind it. If you’re in a culture when boldness not appreciated or rewarded, ask for support, build the leadership opportunity to take an idea and run w/ it.
4) Sell your vision personally. Make an appointment to share your vision with the most strategic person in your organization, a person who could champion that idea for you.
5) Find a champion. On the front lines, if you want a leadership opportunity, find someone in the organization who shares the same kind of thinking. Find a champion who will support new leadership. Someone who’s overburdened will support someone else doing it, if you wiling to take leadership and do so.

Implementation and profitability

Implementation is about projects and project management. Symbol of a triangle, because project management talks about resources, time, and scope — constraints on every project.

Profitability is about the change that is going to occur. It’s about outcomes, how to make it meaningful for your organization.

Innovation is iterative — it doesn’t just happen one time, it happens constantly. This can be incredibly messy, which we don’t like because there’s not way to know outcomes when we start. Also embrace constant beta — be comfortable delivering something at 80%, so you can refocus on the rest through that iterative process. You’re never at the edge, always changes to come.

Innovation is about risk taking. You have to be comfortable with risk — you’re going to fail with some things.

Lots of libraries have lifelong learning in MVV — look at in terms of innovation, because innovation goes hand-in-hand with learning.

Seven steps to highly innovative people (except I missed step 7!)

1) Persistence. To move an organization forward, it takes a lot of erosion to create landslide of change. Don’t try something just once — we often have an idea, get shut down once, give up.
2) Remove self-limiting inhibitions. Biggest barriers to innovation come from ourselves, our own limitations, when we don’t put forward ideas, don’t build alliances. Start with yourself to become a change agent/innovator. Kids teach you this — to change their behavior, you need to change yours first.
3) Take risks, make mistakes. You learn something from every mistake.
4) Escape/explore new angles.
5) Collect ideas, write them down, find patterns, create connections.
6) Don’t focus on outputs when innovating, focus on inputs. Stay curious. Ask WHY.

Slides: — I don’t see them up yet; check back after the conference.

One Comment

  1. Julie Erickson:

    You didn’t miss 7–My notes have 5 split into 5 and 6 (5-collect ideas and write things down. 6-find patterns and create connections)
    Great write-up because I missed the beginning of the session so it’s nice to fill in the blanks there. It was so awesome to hear her in REAL life!

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