Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Innovation, not a great idea

Innovation isn't the great idea, the leap forward, the vision to do something new or better. That is only the start, the 1% of the effort as Mark Twain might have said. The 99% of the effort is getting the idea into solid, substantial, ongoing reality. To be an innovative organisation (or individual) means doing new things or doing things in a new way, it doesn't mean having lots of ideas.

We have an annual event at my library to encourage innovation. You can read about it in the winter newsletter. The innovation event is largely about giving ideas enough time to be developed so that others can grasp the concept and then selecting one or more idea and giving it strategic priority (money, staffing and time). Without time to develop 'the pitch' an idea may languish just because other staff couldn't get their head around it.

I will illustrate my point with an idea that I put forward with my colleague Matthew in 2010 to use the enduring visual attraction of the book cover image to respond to the decline of traditional promotion and discovery, in particular the ineffectiveness of new books displays and the loss of shelf browsing caused by the transition of monographs to electronic format. I later spoke about this topic at the 33rd Annual IATUL Conference in Singapore and you can read my more considered thoughts in the full paper Visualization for New Generation Users in the Age of the Electronic Book.

The technical work that was required to progress this idea into a substantial reality took a few years, suffered the inevitable false starts, dead ends and frustrations that come with the territory and passed through a number of hands. I will talk a little more about the virtual bookshelf in a later post, but I wanted to illustrate my point that we should think about innovation as getting an idea to the 'market' not just having the idea.

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